– Activities to avoid and change,
– Strategies for quick relief,
– Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
– Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
Activities To Avoid or Change:
This typically comes in one of two postures: rounded shoulders with short tight pecs and shoulder blades that lay close to the back or high and tight shoulder with overstretched pecs and shoulder blades that wing out.
Working on a low desk with a laptop can also lead to the hooked shoulders and a short, tight pectoralis minor as well.
Most people see themselves with slumped shoulders and don’t really recognize when the shoulders are high, tight and need to be brought down. In those cases, the person usually leans on their elbows while working. This overstretches the pec minor and shortens the middle section of the serratus anterior to support the posture. you can read about that in this post.
For the high, rounded shoulders, avoid the backpacks or a shoulder bag. Many people note that the problematic shoulder is shaped just right for holding a bag.
For Temporary Relief:
The muscle that creates this pain is not located at the focus of pain. A topical patch or cream, like IcyHot, can offer relief.
In this illustration, I’ve put a shadow of the pain pattern with the focus of pain in the shoulder. I’ve also illustrated the muscle that causes this pattern in the deepest red.
The trick is to put it in the right place. Cover the area over the muscle I’ve put the green asterisk for the greatest relief. You could put the patch anywhere, from the focus of pain in the shoulder, to the focus of pain on the forearm or between the shoulder and chest, but you’ll get the most significant relief from covering the muscle.
This works best under clothing as the fumes from the patch or cream can bother your eyes.
These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.
Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:
If you have rounded shoulders with short, tight pecs, and shoulder blades that lay close to your back, do more of these stretching exercises:
Doorway stretches need to be done gently at first with the elbows at chest level on the door frame. As the pecs release and lengthen over several sessions, raise the elbows on the door frame. Finish with the elbows to stretch clavicular pec over the pec minor. They often work together and have very similar pain patterns.
Two things will speed this process; using the ice and stretch method or making this a regular habit by doing it several times a day for just a few seconds each time. I had notable changes over several weeks only from demoing this for a few clients a day.
If you have high and tight shoulders with overstretched pecs and shoulder blades that wing out, do more of these strengthening exercises:
This is one of the most useful and relaxing exercises that you’ll ever do.
It does so much more than get your pec minor working. It relaxes your neck, opens your breathing and, well, just try it.
If you’re less athletic, start with wall push-ups. push your elbows into the wall so that your shoulder blade moves forward and down, strengthening the extrinsic chest muscles that depress the scapula.
If you’re more athletic, dips are probably the right thing for you. Bench dips like this are good. Chair dips with your arms beside you are even better. If you’re doing those dips on parallel bars with the weight hanging between your legs, you probably aren’t reading this post for yourself.
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If you’re a yoga practitioner, work on getting your shoulders lowered on poses like upward facing dog. This practitioner has done a great job of contracting her scapular depressors.
This is one of the muscles that contribute to thoracic outlet syndrome. If you have swelling, pain, or stiffness in the arm, you should look at this collection.
Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…
This trigger point also creates sharp pain when reaching up or forward. It is a different muscle with very different self-care for relief.
If you’re not succeeding with these strategies, get in touch with your trigger point specialist. They will know how to make lasting changes.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.
Weekly Featured Post
This post shows you how to press out the trigger points and stretch the infraspinatus muscle. It’s a small muscle on the back of the shoulder but creates a number of problems, including:
- shoulder pain when sleeping
- loss of grip strength
- upper neck pain
- pain along the inside edge of the shoulder blade
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and
will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.