The Hidden Culprit:
How Bad Posture Can Cause Shoulder Pain
In today’s digital age, where our lives revolve around being on a computer, laptop or cellphone and living sedentary lifestyles, maintaining good posture often takes a backseat. Many of us find ourselves slouching over desks, hunching over smartphones, or spending hours in front of screens, unknowingly inviting a host of health problems, including shoulder pain. While we often associate shoulder pain with direct injuries or strenuous activities, it’s important to recognize the significant role that poor posture plays in the development of this issue.
In this blog post, we will delve into the connection between bad posture and shoulder pain. We’ll shed light on how improper alignment affects our thoracic spine, neck and shoulders while also providing valuable tips to promote better posture for a pain-free future.
The Link Between Bad Posture and Shoulder Pain:
Forward Head Posture: One of the most common postural deviations is forward head posture, characterized by a protruding head and rounded shoulders. This position places excessive stress on the upper back and shoulders, leading to muscle imbalances and strain. Over time, the muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder become overworked and fatigued, resulting in pain and reduced mobility.
Rounded Upper Back and Shoulders: Sitting in a rounded posture causes excessive flexion of the thoracic spine (mid back). Slouching or hunching forward also causes the shoulders to roll inward, creating a rounded appearance. This unnatural alignment disrupts the normal mechanics of the shoulder joint, leading to impingement and inflammation of the tendons and bursa. The resulting condition, known as shoulder impingement syndrome, often manifests as pain, weakness, and limited range of motion.
- Upper Crossed Syndrome: Bad posture often contributes to the development of upper crossed syndrome, a muscle imbalance pattern that affects the neck, shoulders, and upper back. It involves tightness and overactivity of the chest muscles (pectorals) and upper trapezius, coupled with weakness and lengthening of the neck and shoulder blade stabilizers. This imbalance can cause shoulder joint instability, muscle spasms, and chronic pain.
Tips for Maintaining Proper Posture and Alleviating Shoulder Pain:
- Be Mindful of Your Posture: Being self-aware is the first step toward improvement. Pay attention to your posture throughout the day, ensuring that your head is aligned with your spine, shoulders are back and relaxed, and the natural curves of your spine are maintained.
- Ergonomic Workstations: If you spend long hours at a desk, invest in an ergonomic chair, desk, and computer setup. Position your screen at eye level and use a chair that supports proper spinal alignment.
- The Gold Standard: an adjustable work station where you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
- Move Throughout The Day: There is no “perfect” posture if you’re sitting for 8 hours non-stop. Our body is not designed to be sedentary. Take frequent breaks to stretch and move around. Every 30 minutes make sure to get up and walk or do some exercises to counteract that rounded sitting posture.
- Strengthen Postural Muscles: Engage in exercises that target the muscles responsible for maintaining good posture. Strengthening your back, neck, and shoulder muscles will provide support and stability to your shoulder joint.
- Check out the videos below for some simple exercises to begin with.
- Perform Mobility Drills and Stretching Regularly: Incorporate stretching exercises into your routine to improve flexibility and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting or hunching. Focus on stretching the chest, neck, and upper back muscles. Improve your thoracic spine mobility.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess body weight places additional strain on the shoulder joint, exacerbating posture-related issues. Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Seek Professional Help: If you experience persistent shoulder pain or if your posture issues are severe, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist. They can provide a comprehensive assessment and recommend specific exercises or treatments tailored to your needs.
While it may seem insignificant, maintaining proper posture is vital for overall musculoskeletal health, especially when it comes to shoulder pain. By understanding the link between bad posture and shoulder discomfort, we can make conscious efforts to improve our posture and prevent long-term complications. Through mindful habits, ergonomic adjustments, strengthening exercises, and regular mobility work, we can alleviate shoulder pain, enhance our posture, and lead healthier lives. Remember, investing in good posture today will reward you with a pain-free and active future.
I hope you found this post helpful! If you have any questions or want to learn more about how physical therapy can help alleviate shoulder pain then please always feel free to reach out to us here at Ethos PT in Hackensack. We are more than happy to help you anyway we can.
Written by Dr. John Puzio, PT, DPT, OCS on 07/05/2023