There’s a lot that can make our shoulders unhappy these days. Whether we’re working at a desk, driving or using a phone, there are plenty of opportunities to slip into tension inducing positions.
To make matters worse, as the temperature dips at this time of year, we hunch over and tuck our chins towards our chests in an attempt to stay warm. Add stress into the equation and we can end up spending entire days with our shoulders creeping up towards our ears.
When our shoulders aren’t relaxed, the muscles around them are constantly working hard. Our shoulder and neck muscles get weak and tired from over use and, over time, our fascia (the connective tissues that surrounds our muscles) tighten around these unhealthy postures, making it even harder to stay in tension free positions. The result? Tight, achy shoulders and eventually painful muscle knots.
The good news is, with a few simple strategies, we can keep our shoulders much happier. Here’s how…
The first step is to bring more awareness to your shoulders day to day and notice when they move into tension producing positions. Watch out for any activities that cause shoulder rounding or when shoulders creep up towards the ears.
Just bringing awareness to your shoulders should help you keep them more relaxed, but you may need to make changes to avoid unhealthy positions. That might mean adjusting the height of your computer screen, holding your phone higher or taking more breaks whilst driving.
Being mindful about your posture can be hard if you’re fighting shoulder positions that have become a habit. If you need a bit more help, try setting a timer throughout your day to remind you to check in with your shoulders. You might be surprised how often you discover you’re holding your shoulders in a tense position without even realising it.
Try the Mind Jogger app, which allows you to set random reminders throughout your day.
Counteract built up tension by keeping your shoulders mobile. Especially during times when you’re sitting still, give your shoulders a few rolls forwards and backwards every hour or so. Or add in some shoulder rolls when your posture reminder goes off.
Walking is a great way to let your shoulders relax. Ditch your shoulder bag and allow your arms to swing naturally by your sides to allow the shoulders to move freely.
Dig out your high neck jumpers and cosy scarves. Warm shoulders = happier shoulders. Wherever possible, stay away from cold drafts and layer up when your can’t avoid cold environments.
Need some extra warmth? Get yourself a microwavable heat pack to wrap around your shoulders on cold evenings. The heat can also help soothe aches, pains and discomfort.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that helps teach you how to release muscle tension. You can try the two-set technique for your shoulders sitting or standing. Start by taking an inhale while squeezing your hands into fists, tightening your arm muscles and squeezing your shoulders up towards your ears. Take a slow exhale (sighing out loudly through the mouth usually feels good!) as you let your shoulders relax back and down. Try it 3-5 times and see if you can find even more release with each round.
How are your shoulders doing this week? Share your stories in the comments below.