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"Shoulders back and down"

Education | | Dr. Dann

Have you been told "shoulders back and down," only to have your tension increase?

The common cue 'shoulders back and down' is used to help people create better habits and release tension. Often the cue is used when someone rolls their shoulders forward, sits at a desk for a long period of time, or raises shoulders during times of stress or anxiousness. This cue is used to try and help people relax and release the tension in their neck, shoulders, and upper back. Sometimes this tension leads to chronic headaches, teeth clenching, and overall discomfort.

Proper shoulder alignment is essential for overall body alignment. When shoulders are rolled forward it can lead to imbalances in the spine and musculature, potentially causing discomfort or pain. Bringing the shoulders back down promotes better alignment, which can improve overall body mechanics and reduce the risk of injury during physical activities.

Not an inherently bad cue, but without context and proper execution, it can create more tension and more tight muscles. You see, in an attempt to put shoulders back and down we over-activate our back muscles which can result in more pain!

Here are 3 great reasons to Try this instead!

Spread the shoulders apart!

  1. Spreading the shoulders encourages a more natural alignment of the spine, reducing the risk of strain or discomfort often associated with forcefully pulling the shoulders back and down. It helps distribute the load more evenly across the upper body.

  2. Enhanced Range of Motion: Spreading the shoulders allows for a broader range of motion in the upper body movements. This increased mobility can particularly be beneficial in exercises like overhead presses or pull-ups, where a restricted range of motion can hinder performance and increase the risk of injury.

  3. Engagement of Stabilizing Muscles: Spreading the shoulders engages the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder girdle, promoting stability and control during movements. This not only enhances exercise performance but also reduces the likelihood of overreliance on larger muscle groups, fostering balanced muscular development and reducing the risk of injury.

Thinking about spreading the shoulders apart has the same benefit as "shoulders down and back" without the adverse effects.
As you spread your shoulders apart, your shoulders automatically pull down and relax as your back muscles are opened up, instead of contracted, thus resulting in less tension!

Additionally, focusing on the physical sensation of pulling the shoulders apart can draw one's attention away from stressful thoughts and towards the present moment, promoting relaxation and mindfulness. It's a simple but effective technique for releasing tension and promoting a sense of calmness in both body and mind.

Do you have unresolved tension in your upper back, neck, and shoulders that you can't seem to get rid of? Thought you were following all the right advice but it just keeps coming back?

Contact us today, we would love to hear more about what’s going on and how we can help.


Dr. Dann is a chiropractor serving Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Clackamas, and Oregon City.
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