Osteopathic Journals and Research by Darren Chandler


How to prevent round shoulders

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  • What causes round shoulders
  • The symptoms of round shoulders
  • What can I do to help?
  • How osteopathic manipulative treatment can help

What causes round shoulders

Our daily life involving poor posture at home, in the car and at work causes us to slouch and give round shoulders (kyphosis).

Slouching doesn’t just involve sitting poorly you can slouch whilst standing. Anything that involves hunching over something be it a mobile phone or a sink can cause rounded shoulders.

The symptoms of round shoulders

Pain and tension between the shoulders is a familiar symptom(1,2) especially whilst adopting a posture that involves slouching or rounding your shoulders. However the pain can vary. Patients may experience pain under the shoulder blade(s), into the chest or down the arm(s). This type of posture can also cause neck pain and headaches(3). Some studies have found a posture involving rounded shoulders can also affect breathing(4) and shoulder pain and movement(5,6).

What can I do to help?

Firstly DON’T try to pull your shoulders back. Tightening the wrong muscles will only make your symptoms worse. Simply readjusting one or two things will mean your body naturally assumes the correct posture in a stress free way. Try these tips:

1. Gently pull your chin in whilst looking forward. 

Whilst looking forward rest your hand on your head and gently pull your chin in. To ensure you keep looking forward and not up or down imagine the hand on your head is a football. If you look up or down the 'ball' will roll off your head so to keep the 'ball' balanced you have to keep your head looking forward.

2. Be aware of your sitting position. 

A poorly adjusted workstation can cause round shoulders. To correct this you can read our previous blog on ergonomics.

When sitting if your hips slide forwards away from the backrest your head shoots forwards and your shoulders round. When your sitting make sure your hips are pushed back so they contact the backrest of a chair. Even if they slide forwards 1 or 2cm from the backrest of the chair it can have a big effect on your posture. This is particularly important in a softer chair like a sofa.

3. You don't only slouch when you sit. Being partially bent forward when standing e.g. when texting or doing the washing up can cause round shoulders. Once again by gently keeping your chin tucked in – don’t drift your head forwards to what you’re doing – will limit how far your shoulders round off. Also, when it's possible to do so, if you can, raise what you're doing to as comfortable position as possible it will mean you won't have to bend over as far.

How osteopathic manipulative treatment can help

Osteopaths use a series of hands on manual techniques to address areas of tightness and tension in your spine and shoulders. As well as being able to manipulate areas of tightness we can show you how to address day to day habits that may be causing or compounding your faulty posture. 


(1)  Changes in Activation of Serratus Anterior, Trapezius and Latissimus Dorsi With Slouched Posture (2016). Lee ST, Moon J, Lee SH, Cho KH, Im SH, Kim M, Min K.

(2)  The Torsional Upper Crossed Syndrome: A multi-planar update to Janda's model, with a case series introduction of the mid-pectoral fascial lesion as an associated etiological factor (2015). Morris CE, Bonnefin D, Darville C.

(3)   Upper crossed syndrome and its relationship to cervicogenic headache (2004).Moore MK.

(4)  Posture and mobility of the upper body quadrant and pulmonary function in COPD: an exploratory study (2016). Morais N, Cruz J, Marques A.

(5)  Changes in sitting posture affect shoulder range of motion (2014). Kanlayanaphotporn R. 

(6)   A slouched body posture decreases arm mobility and changes muscle recruitment in the neck and shoulder region (2015). Malmström EM, Olsson J, Baldetorp J, Fransson PA.



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