One of the few times depression is a good thing is when we're talking about the shoulder blades. Unfortunately, most people aren't in the habit of having depressed shoulders. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Our tendacy is to slouch and lift the shoulder to the ears throughout the day. These bad habits can be especially prevalent during times of stress and often lead to tension and pain in the neck and upper back.
The Long-Term Affects
In severe cases, prolonged incorrect positioning of the shoulders and shoulder blades (scapula) can put us at risk for a shoulder injury. For example, an injury to one of the muscles making up the rotator cuff (external rotators) is a painful and difficult problem to rehabilitate.
Even if you have good habits, you could be at risk for shoulder problems. If you participate in sports that require you to stretch the arms overhead, rotate the shoulders, or bend forward, such as swimming, biking, kayaking, and tennis, you are more likely to experience injuries to the shoulder. This can be especially true for the muscles that connect to and support the shoulder blades.
How to re-train your shoulders
To counteract lifted shoulders and relieve pain and tension in the neck and upper back, try these stretches:
1. Shoulder rolls - roll the shoulders up, back, and down emphasizing depressing the shoulders. Repeat 10x.
2. Wall stretch
- Stand next to a wall
- Take a strap, tie, or other and loop it around the head of your left shoulder
- Hold the strap behind the back with the right hand being careful to keep the right shoulder depressed and externally rotated (rolled back and down)
- Take the left hand to the wall keeping your left arm fairly straight
- Pull straight down on the strap with the right arm to help the left shoulder depress and externally rotate
- Slowly turn away from the wall without taking your left hand away
- Enjoy the stretch through the front of the left chest, shoulder, and arm. Hold for 8 breaths and repeat with the other arm
3. Chair stretch
- Sit towards the front of the chair
- Depress the shoulders by rolling them back and down
- Hold the sides of the seat of the chair. Option: If you have more flexibility in the front of the shoulders and chest, hold the back of the seat of the chair behind you. If you're doing the later, ensure the palms face down towards the chair seat
- Hold for 8 breaths and repeat twice
Practice the above stretches every day and before you know it you will have re-conditioned your shoulders to stay depressed without even thinking.
About Kim McNeil B.Sc. CYI:
Certified Iyengar-based Yoga Instructor specializing in Yoga Therapy. The Founder of YogaTheoryTM, Kim offers yoga classes and resources for arthritis, illness, injury prevention and recovery as well as sport specific training for athletes.