Could your poor posture be causing your shoulder pain?
With a name like Beverly Hills Posture, it should come as no surprise that we spend quite a bit of time focusing on correcting posture. This is for good reason. Poor posture is responsible for a lot of musculoskeletal pain and can increase your risk of a host of injuries – some of them not so obvious. This article will explain how your posture can contribute to shoulder injuries, including shoulder impingement, bursitis, torn labrum, and rotator cuff injuries.
The Connection Between Shoulder Pain and Posture
While posture is frequently linked to neck and back pain, many people don’t realize that shoulder injuries can be the result of poor postural patterns. When you make a habit of sitting or standing in a slouched position, your upper back begins to round and your shoulders slope. They tilt forward and wrap outward, creating a muscular imbalance. Sit that way often and long enough and your muscles fall into a dangerous habit.
Muscles are forced to work in an unnatural opposition. Shortened, tight, strained muscles lead to a decrease in range of motion, reduced joint space, pain, and weakness. These impairments often lead to neck pain and even more serious injuries, including impingement, tendinosis, tears, and bursitis of the shoulder. For example, a recent study showed that 65.8% of patients with slouched posture suffer rotator cuff tears. Compare this to the 2.9% of patients with good posture and the result is striking.
Shoulder injuries can be sneaky.
Shoulder injuries often develop slowly over time. When they do, they often cause virtually no symptoms in the early phases. Even minor tears of the rotator cuff may not produce pain initially. However, by the time the injury becomes painful, significant damage could already be done. At that point, treatment is far more difficult, and surgery may even be required. For this reason (and many more), it is very important to pay attention to your posture before you start to experience pain.
Poor posture isn’t just for the inactive.
Even if you are an active, strong, flexible adult, you could suffer from postural defects. Poor posture is especially common while sitting. This is dangerous as poor seated posture can carry over into otherwise excellent standing posture. Note that changing from a sitting to standing desk or simply pulling your shoulders back may not be enough to correct the problem. If you have been struggling with posture for a while, trained medical intervention may be necessary to bring you back to a state of neutral.
So how do we correct the problem?
Stretching, massage, and acupuncture are an excellent place to start. They will help the muscles release and relax, helping increase mobility and range of motion. In addition, gentle, focused strengthening exercises such as Pilates, Gyrotonic, and yoga will help to restore alignment and stabilize the body. Lastly, chiropractic adjustments can help to alleviate pain and ease your transition from poor to proper posture.
- Kebaetse, M., Phillip McClure, and Neal Pratt, Thoracic Position Effect on Shoulder Range of Motion, Strenght, and Three-Dimensional Scapular Kinematics. Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, 1999(80).
- Yamamoto, A., et al., The impact of faulty posture on rotator cuff tears with and without symptoms. J Shoulder Elbow Surg, 2015. 24(3): p. 446-52.
- Ludewig, P.M. and T.M. Cook, Alterations in Shoulder Kinematics and Associated Muscle Activity in People With Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement. Physical Therapy, 3-2000. 80(3): p. 276-291.