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Slumping Shoulders Pt. 1: Allow the wing bones to take flight

Stabilize & Straighten Your Shoulders

Often, clients come to me seeking better posture. Most of the time that means changing how their shoulders look. They’re stuck in the slump that rounds shoulders forward, down and rotated towards their middle. Seen from behind, there is often a “winging” of the shoulder blade. Often a winged shoulder blade creates a “hump” where the neck meets the thoracic spine (where the ribs begin). What causes a winged shoulder blade and what can be done?

The Technical Part

Winged shoulder blades or scapula alata occurs when the shoulder blade is not supported by a major stabilizing muscle, the Serratus Anterior (SA).

Serratus is Latin for “saw shaped” (think the serrated edge of a knife). Anterior is from the Latin “ante,” - before. Here, it refers to where it lies in relation to your shoulder bone (scapula). The SA attaches to the front inside (anterior medial border) of the scapula while the saw teeth connect to the ribs. When this muscle shortens (concentrically contracts) it pulls the ribs and shoulder blade together.

Movement Practice - No Elbow Push-ups

To engage the serratus anterior (SA) begin in a plank or push-up position on hands, forearms (dolphin in yoga) or closed fists for those with inflexible wrists unable to get onto forearms. *If you cannot support your body’s weight see modifications below. Remaining in a plank position you will feel engagement of SA often a feeling of heat in the location. We can shorten or concentrically load the SA by doing a “no elbow pushup”. Push the floor away and round the spine between the shoulder blades causing them to wrap around the ribs (abduction/protraction). Bring your chest closer to the ground and the shoulder blades together (adduction/retraction) and repeat. Working up to 2 minutes in plank is an excellent goal to stabilize your core shoulder girdle!

*If you cannot support your body’s weight in a pushup position place your hands on the wall shoulder distance fingers up while standing. If you cannot stand ask a friend to hold a cutting board in front of you while you’re seated. Place your hands in the same position and follow the directions above.

Of course, this is part of the human body we’re talking about - it’s incredibly complex! An underdeveloped SA is just one aspect of slumping shoulders. Stay tuned for more information about what causes and how to treat this condition. And, as always, I’m available for appointments one-on-one to assist with slumped shoulders and a host of other conditions to help you feel more at home in your body.

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