Rounded Shoulders and Shoulder Pain

Rounded shoulders is a postural condition where the shoulders roll forward and cause postural deviations such as hyperkyphosis (hunch back) and anterior head carriage (forward head posture). Over time, these postural conditions can progress and lead to other conditions such as chronic neck pain, thoracic outlet syndrome and lack of shoulder mobility.

Rounded Shoulders & Shoulder Pain

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint and composes of different structures such as muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood vessels. When the shoulders round forward, it decreases the space in between the arm bone (humerus) and it’s articulation on the shoulder blade (acromion). This causes local irritation of the shoulder joint and has the potential to impinge different structures that pass the shoulders.

Structures such as nerves and blood vessels are often impinged in the shoulder and cause local shoulder pain as well as peripheral neuropathy (pain shooting down the arm). Other symptoms such as numbness, tingling and a “cold” sensation may be present down the arm. Shoulder flexibility and mobility is often hindered because of the spacing in the joint itself.

Causes of Rounded Shoulders

The most common cause of rounded shoulders is poor posture. Because most daily activities such as using the computer/smart phone or reading a book require fine motor movements in the anterior muscles, our shoulders will naturally round forward and encourages poor posture. 

Below is a list of possible causes of rounded shoulders:

  • Poor posture (sitting in front of the computer for a long duration)
  • Excessive weight training (bench press, bicep curls, shoulder press exercises)
  • Muscle imbalances (hyperactive anterior muscles, weak posterior muscles)
  • Stress and emotional factors (holding onto anger, frustration)

Signs & Symptoms of Rounded Shoulders

Every human body is created differently and the signs and symptoms of rounded shoulders vary from individual. The most common sign and symptom of rounded shoulders is a physical forward deviation of the shoulders rolling forward. The upper spine starts to round forward and the neck protrudes to create a center of gravity.

Below is a list of common signs and symptoms of rounded shoulders:

  • Rounding of the shoulders, hunch back in the upper spine and protruded head/neck
  • Lack of mobility and flexibility in the shoulder (difficulty putting the arms overhead)
  • Localized shoulder pain at rest and during movement
  • Chronic neck and upper back pain and tension
  • Numbness, tingling and/or electrical pain down the arm

How to Fix Rounded shoulders

There are many ways to correct rounded shoulders, and often responds very well to a combination of different methods. First off, we have to take a look on WHY you might have rounded shoulders. If you find yourself in front of the computer most of the day hunched forward, that may be the primary reason why. If you’re into sports that require a lot of pushing movements from the shoulder such as powerlifting/bodybuilding, squash and tennis, then correcting the muscle imbalances between the front and back of the shoulder will help with rounded shoulders.

But regardless of why you may have rounded shoulders, there are exercises that will strength the weaker muscles of the shoulder (rotator cuffs) and lengthen the hyperactive muscles (chest, biceps). 

Alternative Methods of Correcting Rounded Shoulders

Manual Therapy
Manual therapy is the manipulation of different soft tissues in the body. Soft tissue consist of structures such as muscle, ligaments, tendons and fascia. In rounded shoulders, the anterior compartment of the shoulder and torso are often tight and pulls the shoulder forward and inward. Reversing the process by lengthening and stretching the anterior compartment will help the shoulders relax and bring the shoulders back into the proper position.


Acupuncture can decrease excess tension and pain in the shoulder by balancing the different meridians in the body. Thin, sterilized needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points in the body to stimulate the body’s natural healing process. Although acupuncture is mainly used to decrease pain, it can also be used to help correcting postural deviations by reteaching the body on how to effectively use the muscles.


Rounded shoulders is a condition where the shoulders round forward and is often associated with shoulder pain. The head and neck start to protrude forward, and the upper back starts to round. Pain associated with rounded shoulders can either be localized or radiate down into the arm and present itself with numbness, tingling and even sharp, electrical pain.

If you are trying to correct your rounded shoulders, correct your posture while performing daily task such as using the computer and practicing proper posture throughout the day. Perform different shoulder exercises and stretches to help re-balance the strength of the muscles that influence the shoulder joint.

If exercising and stretches show little to no improvement, alternative methods such as manual therapy and acupuncture may be an option.