Bad Posture from the Workplace: Scalenes

Video #2 that complements this blog has to do with very small, ropy muscles known  as scalenes.

The scalenes are actually 3 pairs of muscles, 3 on each side at various points of the cervical bones and are referred to as the anterior, middle and posterior scalene. The anterior and middle attach to the 1st rib along the chest region and the posterior scalene runs from the the last couple of cervical and straight across the shoulder, along with the traps, into the 2nd rib.

The scalene muscles are there to help lift the upper ribs for breathing (exhalation and inhalation) as well as help with overall thoracic and shoulder movement. These muscles also pull the head forward into what is referred to as Anterior Head Carriage Syndrome. This syndrome is exactly what it sounds like. As continuous sitting and typing over develops the Pec Major, it also tightens the scalenes as we “push” the head forward to see better. Also, the stress of sitting weakens the back, so we naturally begin to slouch over the course of the day, causing the head to tip down. So we “arch” or “careen” forward to compensate.

The scalenes, although distinctly separate muscle pairs, are also like the Pec Major in that the attachment ends vary in position, giving us much freer, and more subtle, range of motion. And like the Pec Major, as the last blog added, and what is also mentioned in video #2, is that to stretch ALL the scalenes and to take as much pressure off the neck as possible, one needs to very the position of the head. So, sit on a chair–and if you are at work you are already probably there–hold the bottom of the chair with the hand on the side you wish to stretch. Then start moving the head pulling the ear to your shoulder. This gives you a basic stretch of the traps, a very helpful stretch indeed. But to hit the scalenes you need to slowly rotate the head to the floor and then back up to the ceiling, while continuously careening the head toward the shoulder.

Think of all this as like that of a giant circus tent, with the cervicals being the middle pole and the scalenes and their attachments at the ribs the ropes and stakes in the ground. When one or some of the “ropes” get tighter than the others–such as looking to the left or right more often–it stresses the center “pole”, repositioning it and causing pain, discomfort and difficulty moving. This is why it is important to stretch those muscles with a gentle, but full range of motion.

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