By Adena Mai-Jardine, B.A., PFT, RMT
What is it?
Some muscles, when they become overused, become weak (phasic muscles) – and are unable to contract to their full capacity – and some muscles become short (postural muscles) – and are unable to lengthen to their full capacity. As you can see, if these muscles are opposing muscles in the body, an imbalance can occur or a postural dysfunction results.
Why does it occur?
There are a multitude of reasons why postural dysfunctions occur in our body. One of the most common postural imbalances I see in the clinic is in the upper body, specifically between our chest muscles (pectorals) and our upper back muscles (rhomboids and middle trapezius). The rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles are weakened and stretched trying to keep the short and tight pectoral muscles from pulling the shoulder blades and the arm forward. This frequently occurs due to the amount of time we spend sitting in a chair with poor posture: shoulders slumped forward, chin jutting out and arms extended in front of us (active people are just as prone as non-active people).
Signs and Symptoms
This is a tricky one to put into a nice neat box. Because of the complexity of the shoulder girdle, there will most likely be a variety of issues going on at one time. If you have a postural imbalance in your upper back and chest, you may experience the following signs and symptoms, however, having one or more of these symptoms is not a diagnosis for a specific postural imbalance.
- an increased curve in your upper back (thoracic curve)
- a head forward posture
- neck pain
- pain in the middle of the back
- difficulty taking a deep breath
- sore and/or tight rotator cuff muscles (muscles at the back of your shoulder and along your armpit)
- reduced range of motion in the neck and shoulders
- thoracic outlet syndrome (pain, tingling in the arm and hand)
What is my next step?
Your Massage Therapist can complete a postural and orthopedic assessment which will begin to form a basis for your concern. From the results of the assessment, a treatment plan can be developed specifically for you and for your muscles. The majority of functional postural concerns can be alleviated if not eliminated by appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises. In the above discussed imbalance, the pectoral muscles need to be lengthened or stretched and the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles need to be strengthened.
Remember, chronic conditions, unfortunately, can cause problems throughout your entire body – believe it or not – from your neck to the bottom of your feet, so deal with them as soon as possible. We want to keep you active – pain free.
Written by: Adena Mai-Jardine, B.A., PFT, RMT,
Massage Therapy & Holistic Centre – 780-738-4769