Understanding The Connection Between Poor Posture and Shoulder Impingement

One of the worst consequences of poor posture is the neck and back pain that comes with it. But if you suffer from hunching over, slouching, or rounded shoulders, this posture might be causing you a different type of pain that’s often overlooked: shoulder impingement.

What is Shoulder Impingement?

Put simply, shoulder impingement is the painful “pinching” of your shoulder’s muscles against surrounding bone due to strained or repetitious shoulder movement. To understand how poor posture plays a part in shoulder impingement, it helps to know a little more about the anatomy of the shoulder.

The shoulder is made up of 3 different bones — the humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade). Additionally, there are 2 joints that add to the complexity of the shoulder: the acromioclavicular joint where the shoulder blade and collarbone meet, and the glenohumeral joint where the ball of your upper arm and the socket meet.

Connecting all of these bones and joints is the rotator cuff, which is made up of tendons from different muscles: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The rotator cuff is responsible for keeping the shoulder’s many moving pieces attached and working fluidly.

How Does Poor Posture Lead to Shoulder Impingement?

The supraspinatus tendon runs through a space at the top of the shoulder bone called the subacromial space. This space narrows when you hunch, slouch, or round your shoulders, leaving less room for the supraspinatus tendon. Poor posture can lead to the tendon becoming pinched and rubbing against the natural padding in the shoulder, called the subacromial bursa. Slouching, hunching, sliding down when seated, and other seemingly harmless positions ultimately contribute to pinching and shoulder impingement syndrome over time.

This can result in inflammation and swelling of the supraspinatus tendon or subacromial bursa, which causes a painful sensation in the shoulder area.

Why Is The Shoulder Overlooked When Discussing Pain That Results From Poor Posture?

Many physicians default to addressing neck and back pain attributed to poor posture. But the shoulder is often overlooked, likely because the complexity of the joint and the surrounding muscles can disguise the source of the pain sensation as neck or back pain.

How can you tell if you have shoulder impingement syndrome? One way to determine the source of the pain is a simple movement. With your arm is outstretched, do you feel discomfort or a pinching sensation at the front of your shoulder? If so, you might have or might be developing impingement syndrome.

What Can You Do To Help Your Shoulder Impingement?

One of the first steps you can take to alleviate some pain and prevent further impingement is by improving your posture. By maintaining good posture, you ensure your bones and joints are in proper alignment and enable you to use your muscles correctly. Joint pain is caused by the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces, tendons, and ligaments, so by addressing your posture, you eliminate the cause of further joint pain.

So what are some examples of ways you can improve your posture?

Sitting Properly

Keep your feet planted firmly on the floor or on a footrest.

Keep your ankles in front of your knees. Crossing your legs can put your body in a more hunched position.

Don’t sit too far back in your seat. There should be a small gap between the front of your seat and the back of your knees.

Relax your shoulders. Your forearms should also be parallel to the ground.

Use a back support or adjust your chair to rest behind your lower and middle back.

Standing Properly

Keep your head upright and facing forward. Be aware if your head is leaning too far forward or back.

Stand tall with your shoulders pulled back and chest out.

Don’t lock your knees. Instead, keep your knees slightly bent.

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Your arms should hang naturally down the sides of the body.

Resurgens Can Help Relieve Your Shoulder Impingement

If pain doesn't lessen or stop after you improve your posture, visit a Resurgens physician and see what your treatment options are.

In some cases, shoulder impingement surgery is the most realistic treatment. Generally, this would be a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that relieves the pain by removing the subacromial bursa and trimming back bone spurs to decompress the tight space around the supraspinatus tendon. These procedures can help restore your range of motion and reduce or eliminate pain. Interested in shoulder impingement treatment? Schedule an appointment online today.