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Three Reasons your Shoulders are Always Tight


Your Breathing:
When we are in a sitting still we should breathe deeply into our belly using our diaphragm. Unfortunately this type of breathing is rare in our stress-filled lives. A more common breathing that you will see around the office is chest and shoulder breathing. This type of breathing relies on the muscles of the neck and shoulders putting excess strain on these muscles. Breathing like this a few times, no big deal but we breathe an estimated 17,000-30,000 times a day. Imagine how sore your arms would be after 17,000 reps!

Breathing is important, very important. That is obvious. But how many of us know how important proper breathing is? Proper breathing is a critical function of good health, as it rids our bodies of carbon dioxide while providing our systems with vital oxygen. The more efficient this process is, the more effective we are at removing toxins, performing physical and mental activities, and reducing stress and pain – yes, PAIN! Normal respiratory mechanics plays a key role in our neuromusculoskeletal system by affecting both posture and spinal stabilization. The primary breathing muscles also function as stabilizers of our skeleton. Therefore, it makes sense that abnormal respiratory mechanics can have detrimental effects on our well-being.

When the proper function of breathing muscles is compromised, the spineribs is inevitably going to be affected. For example, as the demand for oxygen increases during physical activity, breathing patterns change and spinal stability concedes in order for the body to meet the need for air. We see this all the time when people are exhausted but continue to perform movements or exercises with bad form. The opposite also holds true, as it is very common to find aberrant breathing patterns (e.g. shortness of breath) in people with neck and back pain. Short, rapid breathing can put the body into the “fight or flight” response – an acute reaction to stress. The ability to take slow, deep breaths improves blood flow and returns the body to a calm state.

Renowned authority on manual medicine Dr. Karel Lewit once said, “If breathing is not normalized, no other movement pattern can be.” Assessing breathing mechanics begins by determining whether you are aneck belly breather or a chest breather. Belly breathers typically demonstrate proper breathing by utilizing the diaphragm and other breathing muscles appropriately. Chest breathers, on the other hand, demonstrate faulty breathing by over-relying on accessory (secondary) breathing muscles, such as the upper trapezius and neck scalene muscles. Over time, forward head posture, hypertonic (over-used) trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, shoulder impingement, neck stiffness and increased spinal kyphosis (increased mid-back curvature) can occur if the aberrant patterns aren’t addressed. Other important assessments include rib and lung expansion, checking for symmetry, evaluating breathing rhythms and measuring oxygen saturation. These patterns can be assessed in a variety of positions, which help determine which activities may be contributing to the faulty breathing and/or pain.

Shoulder hiking:
How often do you find your shoulders up next to your ears? Shoulder hiking is a common response to fear or stress. Think about how a cat arches its back when it is frightened. Keeping your shoulders hiked for an extended period of time keeps these muscles active and caused pain and tension over time. One of the muscles that hikes your shoulders attaches to the top four vertebrae in your neck, which explains how that shoulder tension can lead to headaches. Shoulder hiking is a hard habit to break but it can be done. To break the habit, put a post-it note at your desk with the word “shoulders” on it as a reminder to lower and relax your shoulders. Over time you will teach your shoulders to remain in a relaxed position.

Your Posture:
Your head weighs about 12 pounds, about the weight of a bowling ball. This is a lot for your poor neck and shoulders to lug around daily. Imagine holding a bowling ball close into your body, heavy but you can do it. Now extend your arm out in front of you, the ball gets much heavier. The same is true for your head. We know that your head effectively weighs an additional 10 lbs. for each inch that it is in front of your shoulder. So let’s say you’ve been really focusing on your work and jutting your chin forward three inches. Your head now weighs 42 pounds! It is no wonder that your shoulder are always tight and sore. The three reasons that we mentioned above also lead to dysfunctions in the joints of the neck and upper back that perpetuate tension and soreness.

If you or someone you know could benefit from chiropractic care, the doctors at Cromwell Family Chiropractic are here to help. Call 248-477-1492 today to schedule an appointment.