Postural Shoulder

What is It? 

Postural shoulder is simply shoulder pain that is caused by the shoulder not being in a good functional position during movement. The pain that is felt could be coming from any number of things such as, muscular overload, pinching Rotator Cuff Tendons or irritating the bursa. The posture or position of the shoulder can therefore have a great effect on any of the previous problems that can occur in the shoulder and is therefore an important factor to consider or eliminate when another Shoulder Injury is present.

Postural shoulder pain occurs when there is a muscular imbalance around the shoulder, which is no longer allowing the shoulder joint and shoulder blade to move as it normally would. This results in unwanted increases in load or stress on individual structures in the shoulder through movement. Because of this Postural shoulder pain tends to be less consistent in location than the other types of shoulder injury and can therefore be a little hard to pin down. The pain tends to move position and intensity fairly consistently from one exercise or another. Movements that feel good one day can be uncomfortable the next only to feel good again a few days later. The type of pain can also be quite inconsistent varying from an ache, to a burning sensation to sharp catches in the shoulder sometimes even in the one session. However it is common for the shoulder to be generally achy and sore without having any obvious irritating movements. 

What to Look for?

Postural shoulder pain is Inconsistent in behavior with a feeling of stiffness or tightness around the shoulder. You may feel like the shoulder is restricted in is full movement and get pain towards the end of the range of movement.  It can also be easy to see a rounded or forward shoulder position. See picture for example. Often changing the shoulder position will also help decrease the amount of discomfort in the shoulder during movement. Another thing to look for is if you push into the muscles on top of the shoulder, in the back of the shoulder blade and the chest muscles they can feel very tight and tender. The last thing to consider is how sedentary your work lifestyle is. If your work is repetitive or you have to spend long periods of time in front of a computer it can have a significant effect on the health of your shoulders and the tension in the muscles we mentioned above.

What can I do?

The process for correcting postural shoulders is quite simple but due to the fact these postural changes tend to build over a long period of time it can take a while to get good long term change in the shoulder. We’re not saying you’ll be in pain for months, the pain should settle quite quickly, but it can take a while to get the permanent changes needed to keep your shoulders happy.

Step 1 – Foam roller stretch: This guy works wonders. It’s boring as hell but get a good tv show and you’ll be fine. The idea is with this stretch we are trying to counteract the repetitive positions required throughout the day so we need to hold the stretch for 15-20 mins. Hence the TV. It’s common for your hands to go a little tingly or a bit numb while doing the stretch. If they do just lower the arms to a point where the blood flow returns, they feel normal then bring them back to where you started.

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Step 2 – Spikey ball release through the Pec: Stand facing the wall with the spikey ball pressed into the pec muscle. (see pic). From here reach up above your head and back down to the starting position. 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down. Another great muscle release

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Step 3 – Band resisted shoulder retraction: 3 x 10 daily- Set a stretchy band up at elbow height. With both hands holding the band start with both hands fully straight and shoulders rounded. Pull slowly until your elbows are by your side then keep pulling but only with your shoulders to complete the movement. You’re concentrating on pinching the shoulder blades together while also pulling the shoulder blades down the back. This exercise is simply to try and get the shoulders moving through their full range of movement.

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Step 4 – Single arm pull downs with stretchy band: 3×15 each arm. In a lunge position start with your hand straight above your head. Move from here to your elbow in by your side then back up the top. The idea with this exercise is the same. AS you pull down keep the shoulder blade back and down, don’t let the shoulder rounded forward.

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What Should I Avoid? 

Pushing through pain. Pain is the body’s warning system against doing damage. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing damage if you feel a little pain. With postural shoulder pain it’s important to keep moving and keep using the shoulder but not pushing through significant pain. A little discomfort however isn’t a bad thing. Often when a shoulder is a little sore we avoid all movements, even those that aren’t painful, however research suggests that continuing to use the shoulder within relative pain free boundaries leads to greater shoulder health and quicker recovery.

Is there a perfect posture?

For a long time we have been told to sit up straight at attention, like a soldier, perhaps at school or by a well meaning mum. However research is suggesting more and more that there is no “perfect” posture; no one position that we should spend all our time in. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting we should slump at a desk all day. Our body’s are designed for consistent movement, changing positions multiple times an hour, not being in one position for 8 hours a day. “Slumping” is not the problem, it is the 8 hours in one positon that’s the problem, whether you’re in “perfect posture” or not. So when working on your posture we suggest trying to get as much movement as possible into your body in a variety of positions. Soldiering on is not the answer!

We hope you found this helpful! If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

The Climbit Physio Team

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