Clavicle Position and Neck Pain

Before I started Restorative Exercise™  my clavicles formed a wide V formation.  V formations help boost the efficiency of migrating birds and in aircrafts in military flight missions.  However when it comes to clavicles, a V formation negatively affects your neck, shoulders, breathing mechanics, upper body and core strength.  This is how my clavicles were mal-aligned last year (see photo below).

man, my reflection is sassy!


Today: Horizontal(ish) clavicles 11/07/13


Here are a few things I did to restore my clavicles to the horizontalish position (I’m still working on it, but I’m impressed with the results so far):

I stopped using my trapezius (traps) for things I didn’t need my traps for, like brushing my teeth, and drinking tea. Read Want Traps with That by Katy Bowman.

I stopped leaning on my elbow.

I’m working on being able to sleep on my back without a pillow rather than my side, when I do, it’s my best sleep ever.  My V formation is worse in the mornings due to sleeping on my side with my shoulder all crunched up around my ears. That’s when my headaches are at their worst.  Not that side sleeping is bad, it’s just not the best for me all the time, especially since I’m trying to get out of the hunched up position.  Sometimes side sleeping is a must, for instance during pregnancy, or if you’re cold, or just want to protect your vital organs from a grizzly bear attack. In that last case it may be wise to keep a gun under your pillow.  Ideally, I’d work up to not using a pillow, but my body has adapted to 43 years of pillow using, so I’ll gradually make the shift.  Read Katy’s post on your pillow is an orthodic for more pillow talk. Update: 02/19/14 I had the best sleep on my back in the hammock position (hands behind my head) without a pillow.


I have been working on getting my arms out of internal rotation by lengthening my pecs and changing my internal-rotation-gorilla-like-habits.  Internally rotated humeri (upper arm) elevates the shoulder.  Try it, internally rotate your upper arm and see what happens to your shoulder altitude.

I strengthened my latisimus dorsi.

Latissimus dorsi

pull downs, palms forward to encourage neutral humeri


Resistance bands with handles are very handy tools to have.  You can get an attachment that hooks into the door so that you can adjust the level and do pull downs, rows, presses, roll downs,  and much more.  Each color is a different resistance, so getting a set to change bands depending on the exercise and increasing strength level is a good idea. This set has it all: Bodylastics 12 pcs Resistance Bands Set

I also use the Lifeline Usa Fit Assist Pull up Push up Trainer to help with my pull-ups.  This allows me to isolate the correct muscles while doing a pull-up and avoid looking like a pathetic weakling.  See video here.

I put on a scarf when I go out in the cold.  Listen to your grandma! If you are cold, you will hunch up your shoulders and your neck will disappear.

2011 before my neck transplant.

2013 Look, I do have a neck!

I hang from a  Doorway Pull-Up Bar  several times a day. Take breaks from working on your computer at least every 40 minutes to hang from your pull up bar.  I put a timer App called Time Out on my computer.

I do the exercises in the “Can’t get Enough of Shoulders”  and “A Real Pain in the Neck” Alignment classes.  (click on banner below).  These are highly effective short classes that you can download to  your computer and watch anytime you want.  They are a bargain at $5 a class.

Alignment Snacks

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Update: Want more exercises to help with clavicle position? Here is a great post by my friend Susan McLaughlin, PT, RES on getting your shoulders out of the rounded position.

20 Responses to “Clavicle Position and Neck Pain”

Leave a Reply

  1. Kathryn says:

    Yay!! I appreciate this blog sooooo much. Working on kyphosis and shoulders :) thank you

  2. Mrs. K says:

    Hi there! Came over from Katy’s FB post. Are there ways I can help my children to not develop habits that lead to this so they won’t have to relearn it all later? I have a one year old girl (and three older boys) and I’m wanting to save her pain later.

    • Encourage them to hang and climb. A lot of our upper body dysfunction happens because we stop doing those things and spend too much time on computers. Take them to the playground and climb on the monkey bars with them, they are more likely to model what you do.

  3. Lauren says:

    What if my clavicles are uneven? :( Any tips for reversing this?

  4. Shirley says:

    If you have hypermobility and a bit of shoulder instability is it still ok to hang from a pull up bar? Would it help?

  5. Katy Bowman says:

    That you blacked out your own face for the “bad” picture JUST KILLS ME in a good way. I love you and everything you do. The end. KAB

  6. Lisa says:

    Barbara, I love your sense of humor! I also love how you share your alignment journey, and makes me feel that I can do it too! Keep up the good work!

  7. Kathryn says:

    This might seem dumb.. But Does the set of bands have examples of the exercises you mentioned doing with them ?

    • No, it’s not a dumb question at all. I was thinking I should add more photos of the band exercises that I do or do another post. I’ll do another post, I didn’t want this one to be too long and overwhelming. The resistant band set does come with a dvd with a bunch of exercises. I haven’t seen it because I bought individual bands, not knowing about the set at the time.

      • Kathryn says:

        Cool.. Awesome!! I wasn’t sure what the other exercises look like that you mentioned and I would absolutely love to have a neck :) (among other things lol) thanks!!

  8. Tim Harris says:

    Once again you have nailed it, Barbara. It is so inspiring to see the positive changes that RE is making in your life! RES 2015 homecoming hanging and chin up competition in ????

  9. ruth morgan says:

    Good work! Thank you!

  10. AO says:

    Latissimus dorsi muscles are not core muscles.

    • The whole body works together, so they actually do contribute to core strength.

      • Jenny says:

        Hi Barbara,

        I’ve been in pain for 20+ years. It started with headaches and TMJ and has morphed into severe neck and shoulder pain. I have pronounced forward head posture and recently stopped sleeping with a pillow which has relieved my morning headaches (I have a mattress topper which I think made the transition easier?).

        But now the front and back of my shoulders hurt more and I’ve been trying to work on bringing them back/down, but I think sleeping on my side with them scrunched up doesn’t help. How are you teaching yourself to sleep on your back? I go to sleep on my back, but toss and turn and always end up on my side!

        • Hi Jenny,
          As I’m falling asleep I set my intention to sleep on my back and gently remind myself if I wake up on my side. I’m surprised how well this works. If my feet are cold, I’ll curl up into a ball, so tucking my feet under the blanket helps. I wouldn’t suggest going from using a pillow for 20 plus years to not using one. Like when transitioning from positive heeled shoes to flats it should be gradual so your muscles have time to adapt. If you sleep without a pillow, is the back of the neck long, or does your head rotate back? You may want to bolster your head with a flatter pillow or folded towel or blanket until you can keep the back of the neck long.

          • Jenny says:

            That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing too. What’s interesting is that for years I slept on my side curled up in the fetal position (I get cold too), and the minute I stopped sleeping with a pillow I stopped curling up.

            I have noticed though that sometimes when I wake up on my back my head is rotated back (and my chin up), and sometimes when I’m on my side, my head seems to be jutting forward slightly.

            But even though my headaches are gone and my neck feels better without the pillow, you think the quick transition may be effecting my shoulders?

            I’m reluctant to sleep with a rolled up towel for the same reason I no longer want to use my pillow with the neck support roll – because I toss and turn so much that I wake up with the roll under my head which is then pushed too far forward… but I could try going back to a flat pillow I guess for a little while.

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