Break Free of Shoulder and Back Pain: Easy Posture Pointers

Movement is the answer! Get out and enjoy nature! Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II

Upper back and shoulder pain is a common ailment for many.

Office workers, delivery drivers, and anyone staring at a screen for hours at a time all know the tightness that comes from slouching.

While many people complain about their shoulder pain, one’s posture may in fact be the culprit.

When it comes to postural deviations, often the problem starts with tired muscles.

Holding any one position for too long, including “perfect” posture, will tire the muscles.

We naturally off-load tired muscles, distributing the load of the body through other structures, such as ligaments. This means that the body hangs off these other structures, rather than being held in position by muscles.

Slouching sets in, the back-bends forwards, the shoulders round and the muscles that hold these in place become stretched.

Pain from slouching doesn’t just come from that one source.

Take the shoulders, for example —

In a slouching back, the shoulders round forwards, so the muscles that provide support through the shoulders and back are set into a lengthened position. Muscles are strongest in the middle of their range.

Towards their extremes of length, they are weaker, but still must support your skeleton. To provide the support needed, the muscles tighten up; forming bunches of contracted muscle that do not have much opportunity to relax. These bunches are called muscle “knots” and they can be the source of significant pain as well.

There are three primary characteristics to postural syndromes caused by sitting:

  1. slumped back,
  2. rounded shoulders and a
  3. forward-positioned head.

These can be immediately addressed by sitting upright (imagine a string pulling you up from the back of your head), and bringing your shoulders back and down.

If posture is the problem, is “correct” posture the answer?

Not necessarily...

Movement is the answer.

Even if a person holds perfect posture for an entire working day, that’s eight hours in one position.

The body will get tired and need rest before that happens.

Regular movement in your chair, getting in and out of your chair, and walking around the are beneficial to your back and your shoulder health.

Simple exercises can help — 

  • Pectoralis (chest) stretch. Stand against a door frame or the corner of a wall. Place your shoulder on the frame/edge and your arm along the wall. Use the frame/wall to push your shoulder backwards. You should feel a stretch in the part of your chest closest to the shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Shoulder rolling. Start in a shrug position and roll your shoulders backwards. As you move your shoulders back and down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Spinal posture. Stand with your heels against a wall. There should be a small gap between your lower back and the wall, but your shoulders and head should rest against the wall. Step away from the wall, holding the same position. Practice holding this new posture.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!

Contact her, or find out more about her monthly online program, at:!


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