Reclaim Your Back’s Health from Your Office Chair with Scapular Retraction

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You’re walking out of the office and the familiar ache in your upper back returns with a vengeance until you can pop an Advil and get on with your day. Sound familiar? 

In today’s workplace, it’s often (sometimes too often) that we find ourselves seated at our desks. It’s also too often that we sit with less-than-ideal posture, which can lead to a back-health compromising condition called Upper Crossed Syndrome. Upper Crossed Syndrome manifests itself in forward-rounded shoulders and forward head posture, and it can wreak havoc on a healthy back. If your shoulders stick out further forward than your chest after a day at the office, you’re heading in that direction. Luckily, it’s treatable.


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When your shoulders come forward in your posture, it’s the result of weakened muscles in your upper back, neck and shoulders. What’s the fix? Re-strengthening and stretching these muscles. This is done through various forms of the skeletal and muscular movement pattern known as scapular retraction. “Scapula” is just a fancy name for your shoulder blades, and bringing them back and together constitutes retraction.

Stretches and exercises that bring the shoulder blades back and together are the keys to fixing Upper Crossed Syndrome and facilitating better back health. Yoga poses like the cobra and camel poses are great for decreasing tension, while exercises like rowing movements and shrugs will help to strengthen these key muscles involved in maintaining proper back and head position, as outlined in this study. High reps and low weight will get the ball rolling, and you can increase resistance over time for greater strength gains and the benefits that come along with them.

As far as prevention goes, regular stretching throughout the workday and practicing good posture are the most important changes to make. Also, consider switching to a standing desk if possible, as better back health is just one of their many benefits.