Having rounded shoulders and a slumped forward posture is almost like an epidemic in our society today. You see it everywhere. Whether it is the weightlifter at the gym, the person with a computer based desk job, the long distance driver, or the person who is glued to their cell phones and iPads, we find that most people today are hunched over into bad posture. This rounding of the shoulders is often accompanied by pain and stiffness in the upper back and neck.
When we find ourselves constantly in a hunched over position, or if you do a lot of chest exercises at the gym, we begin to tighten our chest muscles and they can become stuck in their shortened position. These chest muscles are your Pectoralis Major and Minor. Often times, people do not realize that their pectoral muscles are too tight. Usually people will complain of pain in their shoulders and upper back (usually in the rhomboid muscles near the scapula), have limited range of movement in the shoulders, or sensations of tingling or numbness down their arms. They assume that the pain is coming from where they feel the pain, but many times it is coming from the opposing muscle group. If one group is pulled short, then the opposite group is then pulled into extension. The over extension is where the pain is being felt.
I hear people get told that to correct this rounded shoulder and slumped over posture, that they need to strengthen their upper back muscles, especially the rhomboids. This sounds great in theory, but in many cases, the problem is coming from overly tight pectorals, rather than weak rhomboids. If Pectoralis Major and Minor are hanging on for dear life, not allowing your shoulders to rotate back, then we need to look at relaxing and lengthening the pectoral muscles first. Once your chest is opened up, then your shoulder blades can move back into place, releasing the tension they have been stretched into, and alleviate the pain felt in the upper back. The same goes for the neck having been pulled forward due to tight pectoral muscles. Releasing the pectorals will help take off the strain of pulling the neck forward, allowing the neck muscles to relax and thus help alleviate some of the neck pain you may have been feeling from constantly hovering over your computer, phone, or steering wheel for hours on end.
Here are some simple ways to help combat the rounded shoulders and tight pectorals:
The best way to combat the dreaded rounded posture is first to be aware of it, then start making the necessary adjustments. Realign yourself whenever you notice that you are rounding your shoulders and hunching over. Check in with yourself frequently. You will be surprised at first to see how often and easily your body gets drawn inward. Work on stretching and opening up your chest throughout the day. Over time, if you are persistent with correcting yourself, you will gradually start to see an improvement in posture, and a decrease in feeling pain in your upper back and neck.
In working with a lot of athletes, and being a CrossFitter myself, I hear people complain of feeling pain behind their knees at least a handful of times a year. It is usually not pain of the kneecap itself, but feels like it is on the backside of the knee, in the Popliteal Region. The area is usually sore and if you apply deep pressure directly to the area, it will feel quite tender. In this area is a very tiny little muscle called Popliteus.
The Popliteus muscle is located on the backside of the knee joint. It crosses over the knee joint, starting on the lateral femoral condyle (outside of the knee on the lowest part of the thigh bone) and the head of the fibula. It ends on the medial side, almost horizontally, on the inner tibia. It is such a tiny muscle that is deep down and hard to find, that it is often considered an insignificant muscle in rotating the knee. Yet it can cause great pain when injured.
What is the purpose of this tiny little muscle you ask?
Because it runs almost horizontally, it actually can move in two directions depending on which attachment is fixed (the femur or the tibia). Here are some functions of the Popliteus muscle:
The Popliteus muscle can be injured due to a traumatic force or impact, but it is most often due to overuse of the muscle. It may start off gradually with tightness and a little bit of pain or an achy feel behind the knee, and then it seems to increase as you continue the same activity. When the Popliteus muscle is injured, you may experience the following:
What to do if you suspect your Popliteus is causing you pain?
Often times this muscle will be over used due to an inhibition of other major muscle groups, such as the hamstrings. I find that tight hamstrings are often the source causing the Popliteus to become overworked and sore. In most cases, the Bicep Femoris (the lateral most hamstring muscle) is too tight, limiting the rotation of the tibia on the femur. The inhibition of the hamstrings then recruits the Popliteus to engage more, in order to compensate for the lack of rotation from the hamstrings during the stance phase of your gait. To help alleviate the pain behind your knee you can do the following:
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.