Let’s be honest, we all have bad posture at some point in the day. Poor posture can contribute to a multitude of musculoskeletal issues. Most of the time, people think of neck and back pain first. While this is certainly true, poor posture can lead to shoulder pain as well!
When you slouch (try it)…your head moves forward and down (requiring you to then look up to keep yours eyes ahead), your back rounds and your shoulders roll forward.
Now sit up as straight as you can…your head moves back and up, your back straightens up and you pull your shoulders back.
Your shoulder is made up of a “ball and socket” joint known as the glenohumeral joint. But did you know that your “shoulder” is also made up of 3 other joints? To complete your shoulder, you have 3 other joints including…
- Scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade and upper back)
- Acromioclavicular joint (shoulder blade and collar bone)
- Sternoclavicular joint (breast bone and collar bone).
These four joints move in perfect rhythm to allow you to move your arm in any direction you need.
So what happens when you sit and stand with poor posture all the time?
When you slouch, you round your shoulders forward causing compression of ligaments, tendons, nerves and muscles that make up the front of your shoulder and chest. You also change the angles at which those joints mentioned above can move. Poor mobility can lead to overuse, excessive strain and eventually pain in your shoulder. You may feel pain down your arm as well. This can be due to your poor posture!
With just about every activity we do throughout the day our heads are down and our shoulders are rounded forward. This occurs when we sit at our desks, use our cell phones, wash dishes and read a book. Having poor posture has a negative impact on the health of your spine and the surrounding musculature.
Poor posture is almost inevitable, especially after a long day at work or doing chores around the house.
What exercises and stretches can you do to help avoid or alleviate postural related aches and pains?
This is a very effective exercise to improve your posture if done correctly! It is not only providing mobilization to your upper spine, but it is stretching and muscles at the side of your neck and at the base of your skull as well as strengthening the deep muscles in the front of your neck. This exercise can be performed while lying on your back, sitting or standing. It is best to focus your eyes on something directly in front of you, then without tilting your chin up or down you pull your head back like you are trying to make a double chin. (Or pretend like there is a string attached to the very back of your head and it is being pulled directly back.) Perform 10-20 repetitions every hour.
This is a simple exercise. All you need to do pull your shoulders back like you are trying to squeeze a piece of paper between your shoulder blades. This helps stretch the muscles at the front of your chest which become tight from sitting with a slouched posture. It also helps strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades. You can perform this with or without resistance. Perform 12-15 repetitions x 3 sets, 3-5x per week.
This next stretch requires a corner in your home or office. Raise both arms up like you are making a football goal. Place both hands on either side of the corner, put one foot in front of the other and lean your whole body in until you feel a stretch through the front of your chest. With rounded shoulders and forward head posture your chest muscles become tight, making it difficult to pull your shoulders back and keep good posture. Hold for 10-30 seconds for a total of 1-2 minutes, 2 times daily.
For photos and further instructions on completing these three exercises, download the Exercise Program below. Keep this printout handy to remind you to complete them everyday!