The Importance Of “Unshrugging”

Many of us hold our shoulders up to our ears, also known as shrugging. Why do we shrug our shoulders?

  • Stress can cause our neck muscles to carry more tension which leads to shoulder shrugging.
  • Sometimes we shrug our shoulders in response to a question or as a nonverbal form of expression.
  • Chronic overuse on a computer, tablet, or other electronic device can cause our shoulders to round forward and shrug.

Regardless of “why” we shrug our shoulders, we should try to focus on “unshrugging.”

Unshrugging is the opposite of shrugging. It’s all about lowering your shoulders - think about hanging your arms by your side, making a fist with each hand, and punching down toward the floor. If you feel a stretch across the top of your shoulders and into your neck, then you probably shrug your shoulders more often than you think.

Unshrugging will stretch the upper trapezius muscles (one of the muscles across the top of the shoulders). This is important because chronic shrugging can increase force across the neck, especially along the C3, C4, and C5 vertebrae - which by the way - are the most common vertebrae fused during cervical fusion surgery. 

Thus, the unshrugging motion will stretch the upper trapezius muscle and decrease the stress, tension, and force placed on the cervical spine.

The Unshrug = a simple motion with big results!

Be gentle with the motion of unshrugging. A sensation of stretching or gentle pulling is normal. The motion should not cause pain.

If you experience pain or tightness in the top of the shoulders or the neck that persists longer than 7-10 days, I recommend you reach out to a specialist like a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Wishing you happy unshrugging and less stress,

Dr. Jeanette


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