July 25, 2022
Author: Shelby
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Everyone knows that having good posture is important, but do we know why it’s important?...

A good, upright posture can make a world of difference for enhancing our mobility, as well as pain prevention and pain management. Keying in on the shoulders, how can your posture make shoulder pain you’re already having worse? Or even keep you from developing shoulder pain in the first place?

A Little Anatomy

To answer the above questions, it helps to know a little bit about the shoulder complex. The shoulder complex involves more than just the ball and socket joint, known as the glenohumeral joint or simply the shoulder. The entire shoulder complex involves the following:

  • Acromioclavicular joint (collar bone connection with the shoulder)
  • Scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade connection to the thoracic spine)
  • Sternoclavicular joint (collar bone connection to the chest or sternum)
  • Glenohumeral joint (ball and socket joint made from connection of the humeral head and glenoid fossa from the shoulder blade)

Relationship Between Posture and the Shoulder Complex

Now that we know a little more about the shoulder complex, let’s get back to what this has to do with posture and the effects on shoulder pain.

Poor posture can have a negative effect on all areas within the shoulder complex. The classic bad posture seen most often is a forward head and rounded shoulders.

This posture will tend to create muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances involve certain muscle groups having a natural tendency to become short and tight, while others become long and weak. These imbalances can also be created by poor posture and cause abnormal stresses on the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) that connect to the joints. Subsequently, this can place excessive stress and strain on the joints. If any or all areas of the shoulder complex are negatively affected by muscle imbalances due to poor posture, this can create or contribute to shoulder pain.

An Example

Let’s consider the rounded shoulders positioned mentioned above, for example.

Forward rounded shoulders cause tightness in the front of the chest, especially the pec muscles. This position could also affect other soft tissue attachments in the areas of the shoulder complex including the sternum, clavicle and shoulder joint.

On the back side, in the areas of the scapula and thoracic spine, the soft tissue attachments, such as the mid traps and rhomboids, will tend to become weak.

Even if you attempt to correct this posture by standing straighter, the muscle imbalances will make this more challenging, which is why you have to correct the imbalances in order to achieve a better posture (exercises can help with this!).

Just for a moment…let yourself hunch forward into a slumped posture… try to raise your arms over your head…they won’t get very far! Now, try the same thing, but with a nice, upright posture…big difference, right?

Tying it Altogether

So, we’ve taken a look at the following:

  • What makes up the shoulder complex
  • Muscle imbalances that can be created from poor posture
  • How poor posture can affect the entire shoulder complex
  • How the positioning of poor posture and the muscle imbalances can affect shoulder pain

If you’re currently experiencing shoulder pain or are trying to prevent shoulder pain from occurring, consider your posture. If you notice that it might not be the best, this could be the missing piece you’ve been looking for to help shoulder recovery or injury prevention!

Feeling inspired to get better posture?... Join the 30 Day Posture Challenge on RangeMasterU! Follow daily step-by-step instruction and guidance through exercises and stretches meant to promote the best posture you can achieve!

Written by: Shelby Green, PT, DPT, MTC, CLT-LANA

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About the Author Shelby

Shelby Green is a Florida-licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), currently practicing at St. Anthony’s Resource Center Outpatient Rehabilitation in St. Petersburg, FL. Shelby received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of South Florida, followed by her DPT from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Shelby has 6 years clinical experience practicing in both the acute care and outpatient rehab settings. Specialties include orthopedics, with additional training in specific manual therapy techniques for pain management, as well as extensive training as a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.

Shelby is a Tampa, FL native, which is where she and her husband currently reside. Their favorite activities include spending time with family and anything outdoors, such as walking, bike riding, and going to the beach.

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