Signs You May Need To Improve Your Shoulder Posture
Have you been noticing that you slouch or you feel like your shoulders are hunched forward like a neanderthal? First of all you are not alone. To be fair the neanderthals probably had much better posture than we do. Our current modern day lifestyle has led us into an epidemic of poor posture. I have seen in my clinic hundreds of people who have abnormal shoulder posture. This abnormality contributes a spectrum of health conditions affecting appearance, movement and pain. Our lifestyle choices can cause a breakdown in our posture. The areas most affected are the head and neck, upper back and shoulders. This article explains the three most common signs that you have poor shoulder posture.
The Head and Neck
When accidents and injuries occur there is a breakdown in the integrity of the tissue along the spine. This loss of integrity results in instability and a breakdown pattern of the spine. One such pattern is seen in what we refer to in the posture field as forward head posture.
Due to the weight of the head and time there is a process of deformation that occurs. The muscles, tendon and ligaments shorten in the front and lengthen and weaken in the neck. The result is the head goes forward and the neck tracks along with it. The secondary consequence to forward head posture is the shortening of the muscles along the front of the neck and upper chest. The shortening in this area sets into motion the pulling of the shoulders forward. Due to the weight of the arms and time, the shoulder begins to roll forward producing the poor shoulder posture.
The Upper Back
Another breakdown pattern of shoulder posture is seen in the upper back. Hyperkyphosis is a term referring the an accentuation of the normal curve that is in the upper spine. A normal curve can be measured using x-ray, or at home you can do the wall angel test: stand against a flat wall with your heels touching the wall. To get an honest reading, stand in your normal posture (take a deep breath, exhale and relax). If you feel the upper part of your shoulder blades not touching the wall this may be a sign that you have hyperkyphosis of the thoracic spine.
The Shoulders: Slouching & Hunching
A third breakdown pattern begins directly in the shoulders. Overuse injury such as sitting at a desk for a prolonged period of time or a single incident such as throwing a ball, swinging a racket, or over lifting with one arm could cause direct injury to the tissues that make up the shoulder girdle. The consequence of injury to the shoulder may develop into what is called frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis. The common sign for this condition as seen in my clinic was pain and difficulty raising the arm. Clients noticed this most when showering or attempting to put a shirt over the head.
Frozen shoulder can also develop when you stop using the joint normally because of pain, injury, or a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or a stroke. In terms of shoulder posture, a frozen shoulder can develop from prolonged poor alignment of the shoulder. The tissue around the shoulder develops adhesions due to a lack of motion and often gets worse if left untreated. Due to the lack of use, the tissue in the front of the shoulder tightens and you develop the rolled shoulder appearance. Depending on the person and the injury, both shoulders may become involved. Hunched shoulders thus manifest. Left uncared for, the upper back and neck can become affected producing more hunching, a problem that must be addressed from multiple perspectives.
Improve It Before It’s Too Late
If you notice any of the signs I described above you may need to look into improving shoulder posture before it’s too late. In many cases poor shoulder posture is a result of lifestyle choice. Dealt with early, the condition can be reversed. I have had many clients who presented with shoulder posture problems that were considering surgery as the last option. If the type of breakdown pattern can be established and damage is not too severe, with the right help poor shoulder posture can be fixed!