Proper posture has always been a work in progress for me, but a candid photo of myself is what really woke me up to the reality of my rounded shoulders. (Well, that plus the upper backaches.)
The pic was recently snapped by my fiancé from across our work-from-home table. For the record, he was trying to capture a cute pic of our dog but, of course, I zoomed in on my iffy ergonomics.
Disappointed with my rounded shoulders (and my slouching in general), I reached out to Dr. Brian A. Cole, MD, FAAOS, an orthopedic surgeon, for some posture-correcting exercises to conquer rounded shoulders.
If you're in a similar slouching situation, know you're not alone. According to Dr. Cole, with so many people working from home and staying inside during social distancing, hunching over is a very real problem.
"Many of us hunch for several hours in the day because of daily activities, such as using a computer, looking at a cell phone, reading, or leaning forward when carrying heavy objects," he explains.
You've seen the illustrations of posture — when slouching, your head and shoulders are typically pushed forward, which leads to rounded shoulders, Dr. Cole explains.
"Over time this causes curvature or hunching in the upper section of the back, your thoracic spine, and leads to permanently rounded shoulders."
The good news is that rounded shoulders can be fixed and prevented simply by practicing and correcting your posture.
Get started by trying Dr. Cole's two exercises ahead — they really put posture into perspective for me.
Dr. Cole also generally suggests being mindful to sit and stand up straight with your head directly over your body, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your ears.
"The first exercise you can do is pull your belly button as far forward as you can," Dr. Cole explains.
"This is facilitated by lumbar supports in ergonomic chairs. We would very much like to not rely on sitting in an ergonomic chair but rely on our core strength to achieve this. One of the things you will notice is that if you increase the curve in the lower spine by pushing your belly button forward, you decrease hunching in the upper spine, rebalancing your spine. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat."
The second exercise that Dr. Cole suggests: bringing the shoulder blades back toward each other.
"Imagine that the two inner shoulder blades are trying to kiss each other. Hold this position for 30 seconds, release, and then repeat."
Remember: if you're dealing with pain, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor for personalized advice.