the great shoulder migration
February 3, 2010 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Why are my shoulders constantly creeping up toward my ears?

When I wake up in the morning my shoulders are usually bunched up toward my ears. They are usually sore, and during the day I make a strong effort to keep them down. Throughout the day, I will suddenly realize that they have drifted upward again. Sometimes this is related to being tense, but not usually.

I am a young person in good health with no physical deformities. I practice yoga, do aerobics, lift light weights. I do my best to stand up straight and maintain good posture. I am a student, so its not like I am sitting at a desk all day.

I have read that a cause of slumpy posture is that your chest muscles are stronger than your back muscles, pulling your shoulders forward and rounding your back. Is there some back or shoulder muscle that might be too strong/not strong enough that is causing my shoulders to rise?

What exercises or stretches can I do to make this stop?
posted by BusyBusyBusy to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a bad habit of doing this too; I don't think it's anything having to do with chest/back muscle strength so much as a combination of "nervous habit" and "that's just how my body carries tension". And that tension can be psychological as much as it is physical.

In my case, I've started checking in and reminding myself not to do that; I've also found that reminding myself "you're not carrying the world on your shoulders" is almost working like a little mantra, because it's a physical reminder and also short-circuits the psychological stuff as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on February 3, 2010

The muscles that pull your shoulders down are your lats - you might consider working on those some. I know I've found that when I'm doing lat pulldowns/pullups regularly, my posture is better and I have less of the cube-drone hunch going on.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:04 PM on February 3, 2010

I would just stretch more. You can stretch your traps by holding onto a light weight in one hand, and letting your shoulder hang down as much as possible, and then gently bending your head in the other direction. To bring your shoulders back you can stretch your pecs and do "face pulls". Like Empress, I think it's just a bad physical habit that can lead to a muscular imbalance, but stretching periodically to reset everything will probably help.
posted by creasy boy at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2010

This sounds like stress. It happens to me particularly when things are very busy or stressful in my life.

A twenty minute yoga session per day has worked wonders and helped rein it in a lot. I've found downward dogs to be particularly helpful.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2010

you're just stressed out. roll your shoulders around, do so push ups and, dare i say, masturbate and your shoulders will relax in no time.
posted by defmute at 6:46 PM on February 3, 2010

Th best way to remove the tension that is hunching your shoulders up is to overstress the muscles to force them to relax. This worked very very well for me.

Hunch your shoulders up to your ears, as hard and high as you can. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat a few times. Get in the habit of doing this now and again during the day. Feels great and drops your shoulders back down.
posted by Billegible at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2010

I have read that a cause of slumpy posture is that your chest muscles are stronger than your back muscles, pulling your shoulders forward and rounding your back

Tight (not necessarily "stronger") pec muscles will pull the scapulae & shoulders in & down, resulting in that hunched posture. You should stretch & open up the pectoral muscles, and work on strengthening weaker shoulder stabilisers: rhomboids, trapezius, serratus anterior.

You possibly have a postural syndrome known as Upper Crossed Syndrome. If you google or speak to someone at your gym you should find specific exercises to address these particular imbalances to relax & lengthen hypertonic muscles & strengthen hypotonic ones.
I also highly recommend Pilates. Yoga is great for the stretching & lengthening, but from what I see & experience, Pilates is more useful for identifying & strengthening weak muscles to provide stability.
posted by goshling at 7:25 PM on February 3, 2010

Tai Chi. You need to do Tai Chi. That will fix this absolutely.
posted by koeselitz at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2010

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