If you are unsure whether you have rounded shoulders or to what extent, then this quick read is for you!
Rounded shoulders are quite common and as you might know, the name comes from the characteristic rounding forward and inwards of the shoulders.
This bad postural habit can be anywhere from mostly harmless to putting you at high risk for injuries or pain.
In any case, it should not be taken lightly, because even with slightly rounded shoulders it is likely to worsen over time unless you do something about it.
The fastest and easiest way to detect whether you have rounded shoulders is looking at where your thumbs are pointing when your arms are resting naturally.
You will find more on this and several other methods below.
Issues With Rounded Shoulders
Common problems with rounded shoulders are a loss of mobility, sore neck and/or upper back and in worst cases pain.
In severe cases, it can cause a lot of pain both in head, neck, and back. It creates issues with muscle balances and puts your spine in an awkward position.
Rounded shoulders also put you at risk of shoulder injury if you do sports or weight training.
By the way, I have had a shoulder injury before and I can tell you that it is something you want to avoid!
Of course, rounded shoulders also doesn’t look that pretty which is enough reason to fix it for some people.
What Causes Rounded Shoulders
There can be many reasons for why you have developed rounded shoulders, but the cause is most likely poor posture (slouching).
Your body is litteraly adjusting and adapting all the time including muscles and joints. You can think about your posture as simply a reflection of the position you spend most time in.
The more time you spend in a forward leaning position (slouching) where the muscles and joints your upper-body is stretching forward, the more your body adapts.
Basically, the muscles in your chest become tight and shortened while the muscles in the back become lengthened and weak.
Here are some examples of when this often occurs:
- Poor Sleeping Posture
- Historical Injury Count
- Throwing/Pushing Dominated Sports
I have dedicated a whole post to the causes of rounded shoulders that you can check out if interested.
How To Tell If You Have Rounded Shoulders
There are many ways to detect whether you have rounded shoulders and I have listed several below.
You don’t have to do them all, but I recommend trying out more than one.
Also, it is super easy to do.
An Easy Observation at Home
A great way to determine if you have rounded shoulders is looking at the way your hands naturally position themselves.
All you need to do is stand with your arms and shoulders relaxed, and observe the position your thumbs are in. When they are positioned further inwards, it’s a possibility that you have rounded shoulders.
You can approximately determine the severity of your rounded shoulders by how narrow the angle is between your body and where your thumbs are pointing.
The angle should be about 90 degrees if you have well-positioned shoulders.
The rounding of the shoulder forces the hand to be pushed inward when they should be straight ahead. This is a simple exercise that you can perform on your own.
You can check out this video for a clear demonstration. It is by Rick Kaselj who is an awesome physiotherapist and well-known online for his many helpful information products.
Perhaps his most popular product is the one about fixing tight hip flexors. I wrote a review of that program which you can check out here if interested.
A Bit More Advanced Approach
For a more advanced way to detect if you have rounded shoulders, use the “cheekbone to collarbone” trick.
You can do this in two ways. One way is getting in front of the mirror and drawing an invisible line from your cheekbone to the collarbone.
The other way is by simply getting a side profile picture of your upper body. If the collarbone is behind or doesn’t match up with the cheekbone, rounded shoulders may be present.
Shoulders Rolling Forward
Another simple yet great way to tell if you have rounded shoulders is just being mindful of how your shoulders are usually positioned or used.
You might not have noticed what is going on before if it is part of your daily routine.
Consider your posture when doing things such as reading, looking at your phone/tablet/computer, driving, bending over, carrying heavy items.
The kind of exercise or sports you do could also have a strong influence. Do pressing or throwing movements dominate? (they often do).
Another thing is that if you are often stressed or anxious muscles in your upper body tend to tighten and roll upwards and/or forwards.
If that is the case rounded shoulders is not your only problem. You will have to manage your stress and become better at relaxing your mind.
As one of the common issues with rounded shoulders is decreased mobility, you can test how easy it is for you to lift your hands above your head.
If it is hard or you experience tightness in the shoulders this is a good indication that you have rounded shoulders.
Visiting a Professional
Doing tests at home is simple and should enable you to find figure out whether you have rounded shoulders or not.
However, visiting a professional is obviously the surest way to find out.
Good News for You – Here Is How You Can Fix It
The upside is that rounded shoulders can be fixed, both before or after they begin to cause problems for you and your body.
It will take commitment especially in the beginning, but it will benefit you in the long run.
There are many different exercises you can do, but you don’t have to do all of them.
Here are some simple stretches that won’t take up much of your time. For fast improvement, I would say you should do them daily.
As a minimum, you should do these 2-3 times per week. It is difficult to tell you how long it will take to fix because it depends on the severity of the problem and how much effort you are putting in.
It could take anywhere from a few weeks to many months. I cover the topic of how long it takes to improve posture here.
The “Wall Corner Stretch”
While standing one to two feet from the corner, straighten both arms parallel to the floor. Press your palms on the wall, while leaning forward and bringing your head and chest out. Hold the position for thirty seconds.
“Wide Superman” / “Wall Angels”
In a prone position, lie facing the floor. While your arms are extended to the side, elevate your abs, chest, and arms away from the floor. For the best outcome, repeat this motion ten times for three seconds each.
You can also do a similar movement while standing glued to the wall.
“Front Shoulder Stretch”
You’ll need a chair or something similar for this one. Facing away from the chair, place both of your hands on it, allowing your body to be as low as possible. While keeping your elbows in and your shoulders blades squeezed, you’ll begin to feel a stretch at the front of your shoulders.
I talk more about exercises to fix rounded shoulders here.
You can also check out this cool article from Medical News Today.
Other Treatment Methods
Massage therapy is also useful to fix rounded shoulders and it is very relaxing and feels great. You can read more about why massage therapy can help improve posture here.
You could also try acupuncture. Personally, I am not so sure what to think about acupuncture, but it seems like there are some benefits.
The Bottom Line
Rounded shoulders are a common issue due to our modern lifestyle. It is not very hard to detect and it definitely worth putting some effort into correcting.
I would say that if you are trying to figure it out whether you have this problem or not, then you likely have rounded shoulders.
It will require commitment and effort to fix, but there are some products that can help you out.