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What does posture have to do with shoulder pain or headaches?

November 29, 2017

We’ve all experienced the aggravating effects of shoulder pain; whether it’s sharp and caused by movement or the kind that radiates and aches all day.  Bad posture, whether it is caused by your environment or has been a habit, can have a significantly detrimental effect on your shoulder joints that can lead towards recurring pain and even headaches. Physical Therapists are well acquainted with shoulder injuries and pain, and have developed methods towards strengthening and conditioning the area to help patients live happier lives.  

Body Image Physical Therapy in Denver has made it its mission to provide not only exceptional care to patients in need of physical therapy, but to educate the community in ways they can improve their overall health as well. When addressing shoulder pain, it is often the case that symptoms felt for most of one’s life can be resolved or improved with physical therapy. With retraining or correction of one’s muscle function, shoulder pain and headaches could be a thing of the past.

Shoulder Injuries

Known as the part of the body most prone to injury, the shoulder girdle, which consists of the clavicle and scapula, is an area that needs to be properly maintained with conditioning and strengthening. While shoulder injuries are more common in those who are active in overhead sports such as swimming, tennis and volleyball, people of all ages can experience injuries and fractures in this part of the shoulder. Even after an injury has healed, working with a physical therapist in Denver is recommended to help the area regain any strength lost during the healing process. You don’t want a shoulder injury to affect your health down the line, so it’s best to tackle the problem head-on as soon as your are healed.

Shoulder impingement is a common issue in the physical therapy setting, and means it has become painful to lift the arm overhead due to a series of mechanical shifts in the shoulder itself.  It can be especially aggravating  when it seems to happen suddenly and without provocation.  The truth generally is that it probably evolved into a problem over time either due to repetitive motions, or poor posture utilizes muscles that have become overworked. When the shoulder is traumatized, or is being used incorrectly, the group of soft tissues about the shoulder tends to shift the skeleton, causing a pinching (impingement) of the soft tissues between the bones in the shoulder. This can take years to develop, and can lead to chronically inflamed soft tissues, or damage to the rotator cuff.

Poor posture, combined with shoulder trauma of any kind can lead to a chronic inflammatory state about the shoulder girdle which can lead some to develop recurring headaches.  Is it ever too late to be able to correct this? It is really never too late, but all of the steps have to be thoroughly completed to ensure a fully successful resolution of the pain, and full return of function.  

Treating Shoulder Pain With Improved Posture

Regardless of the actual diagnosis, if you cannot lift your arm up overhead without pain, it generally means that something in that complex environment about the shoulder needs attention. An over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, along with ice, may help reduce the acute inflammation, and  thereby reducing the pain. But this is never a good long term solution, as the problem will crop up again with less and less provocation if you just try to cover it up. At the end of the day--you still have the issue of why it happened in the first place.  

Remember the constant reminders from your parents telling you to sit up straight and stop slouching? That is where we need to begin.  Correcting your posture while sitting, standing or exercising, is the cornerstone in the process of eliminating this shoulder issue. Posture is cultivated by repetitive motions done without frequent breaks. This means that someone who slouches all day at a desk without any breaks to move around and stretch is essentially locking their posture into one that their musculoskeletal system wasn’t designed for.

Understanding what needs to be changed in terms of your posture is important towards regaining full motion in all directions in the shoulder as well as correctly strengthening those muscles. Doing so alone is possible, though consulting a physical therapist is highly recommended for those looking to address shoulder injury, pain or just to correct their posture. Working with a physical therapist in Denver could be your solution towards pain-free shoulder movement and even fewer headaches.   

Headache Connection

Frequent headaches (not for everyone, but it can commonly occur with this shoulder issue) can be due to the head being positioned too far forward in poor posture. This causes strain in the neck and shoulder muscles, creating spasms, trigger points, pain in the neck, and possibly headaches. While some have been told frequent headaches are a result of genetics or stress, this oftentimes turns out not to be the case. Even though who have suffered trauma, such as head injury or concussions can experience improvement through physical therapy and fitness training.

A good start to improving your posture and therefore the pain being felt is sitting up straighter, getting the inflammation under control, and find out what muscles are too weak to hold you properly. Working with a physical therapist with craniosacral work can alleviate the strain on certain muscles while strengthening the right ones to help improve circulation and tension experience in the neck and shoulder. We have amazingly resilient systems in our body, so whether you have had this problem for days or years, the body is generally willing to adapt to correction with the right input.

If you have been suffering from a shoulder injury or pain, or you have been relying on medication to tackle your headaches, consider physical therapy in Denver to help alleviate your symptoms and re-educate your body to better handle the stresses of your environment. Body Image Physical Therapy has made it it’s mission to help those in the community through therapy and education to live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Ready to tackle it? Fill out the Quick Contact Form at the bottom of our website or call us for an assessment at 720-870-8900.