Apparently I'm always shrugging...

My trainer has told me, my girlfriend has told me, my piano teacher tells me. It seems to be a nagging problem, and I notice that I get a lot of strain/fatigue in my neck when I type or ride a bicycle. My shoulders are up to my neck and rounded forward. I find it very hard to relax them.

Anyone else similarly afflicted? Is there doctor/quack/psychologist/masseuse that can more properly identify the source of my shrugging, and how to make it go away?

You know what you feel, so is there anything that feels uncomfortable or irritated when you are riding a bike, playing the piano, or typing? These all seem like activities where you’d have your head down, or at least not straight up. There could be tissue of some kind rubbing against a vertebrae or shoulder blades and the shrugging is attempting to alleve that. I had something like that with my neck. After frequent stretching and movement to alleviate the irritation there would be new irritations from all of that motion. I had to conciously stop all those movements for a while until my neck was rested, then always be on the look out for falling back into that pattern.

On the contrary, these are activities where I would keep my head up, to either look at the road or sheet music, where otherwise I can bury my face sort of halfway into my chest to look at my phone, like I’m doing now. Interesting thought, though.


What can you do?

I dunno.

Umm…well, Atlas…

IANAD and IANAPT but I’ve just started some physical therapy for what sounds like the same kind of problem.

I don’t know if it started from that activity, but I can certainly understand how frequent riding on a non-recumbent (i.e. standard) multi-speed kind of bicycle would exacerbate the situation. I know for sure that my riding position on my crotch-rocket style motorcycle has been making things worse for me over several years. In both activities I’ve been resting my upper body on my outstretched arms and shoulders. On my morning motorcycle commute, that’s like doing tens of thousands of miniature push-ups every day; even when I was on a non-motorized bike, I was basically rolling along most of the time in a fully-extended push-up position.

[It also seems that my position in front of my computer doesn’t help a whole lot either.]

So, basically, for me the physical therapist’s analysis was that my pectorals have become nice and strong (though I would never have guessed by looking at me) while my trapezius (in my case, particularly the trapezius minor) has become relatively weaker. The result is that I tend to have a sort-of stoop and hunch posture. In fact, if I pull my hands behind my back and touch my thumbs together, I present an upper torso that is radically different from my normal configuration when I’m walking or sitting, and the difference is not supposed to be that great. So it’s not so much that I’m lifting my shoulders and rolling them forward (which takes extra effort) but that I’m essentially letting my upper spine and neck droop forward (which comes from a lazy lack-of-resistance to gravity plus the tension and strength that bicycling and motorcycling have built up in my chest).

I would encourage you to have your doctor refer you to a physical therapist. The exercises I’ve been given are surprisingly simple and have been working wonders since day one.


BE the change you wish to see in the world.
—M. Gandhi

My chiropractor says I shrug and have bad posture because I am tall (6 foot 1). I don’t really care about fixing it at 40 years old.

You should get yourself one of these.

Your shrugging is almost certainly an emotional response to something. Left shoulder shrugging is sometimes a response to feeling used and abused. Both shoulders not sure. I think it might be a don’t want to screw up type response. When I repeat the motion you describe it brings up feelings of apprehension.

Do you shrug voluntarily, or is it a tic?

I finally decided to make this post after having lunch with co-workers yesterday. There was a large wall mirror behind my colleagues where I could see myself, and how my shoulders were rounded and hunched forwards. The flap of fabric from the back of my suit jack was all bunched up behind my neck as a result. Looked terrible.

I hear people tell me–in the context of playing music, lifting weights, spin class, etc. etc. etc.–“hey, relax your shoulders,” as though I’m doing this consciously. But I’m not. And I have no idea when I am or am not doing. Though judging by the activities which make me feel like someone is pulling a vulcan neck pinch on my right side, I can venture a guess that anything where I sit upright, with my eyes forward, is putting a strain on my shoulder/neck muscles.

So it’s more of a static posture that you take, rather than a continuous movement like this?

Yeah, no. It’s more of a hunched forward type, continuous thing, but I find that “shrugging” is just the best descriptor for how it looks like.

See an orthopedist. Do you happen to have flat feet?

Yes, actually…is there a correlation…?