Sweat and Smiles: March!

Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Discussion About Posture

by: Jen Lausten PT, DPT & Amy Smith ATC

Lets face it our sedentary work postures are not healthy and our seated posture is something we have watch and to be mindful of, or we will end up sore.

Anything we do in life habitually or compulsively will usually end up becoming irritated.

A common habit is how we sit in front our computer, how we position our arms using mouse or keyboard. Body alignment and mechanics matter for decreasing load on our muscles and joints. It is just simple physics.

So why do my neck and shoulders become sore and tense? How is the shoulder and neck interrelated?What are trigger points?


Let’s start with our alignment. If we dropped a plumb line from our ear down, would our body be upright or leaning forward? Our head is typically too far forward. This makes our neck bend forward, which can ultimately put a strain down into the low back.


How do I fix my seated posture at work?

Start by simply sitting tall up on butt bones. Think of rolling your pelvis and belly button forward. Roll your shoulders back, but don’t let your rib cage raise up. This is good upright posture!

Close your eyes and let your arms naturally hang at your side. Now bend ONLY your elbows to a 90 degree angle. Now open your eyes. Where are your hands? They should reach the keyboard.

Look at your screen. Is it comfortable to see without turning head to the side or looking up or down? If not, you need to fix your work station. If you’re using a laptop more than one hour per day, it would be best to have a detachable keyboard in order to have correct posture.workstation posturetrigger point



Why is it bad to have head forward posture?

forward head skeletonbad posture

The man above doesn’t realize that over time, if his shoulders are in front of his body, it’s causing unnatural strain on small important shoulder muscles called the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff controls and helps stabilize the shoulder. If you are in a slouched posture, over time the pectoralis minor shortens, thus keeping the shoulder rounded all the time, even when you’re not at the desk. When this happens, the small tunnel that the superior rotator cuff tendons pass through becomes smaller, which causes rubbing along bone from increased tension. This can lead to bony spurs, which can exacerbate the problem.

shoulder impingements

These issues weaken the rotator cuff. Now, when you than go do something more physical, such as lifting or straining to reach for something, you have set the shoulder up for injury.

It is also common for us to keep too much tension in our upper trapezius muscle (shrugging shoulders up). Over time, this too becomes adaptively shortened and that causes the middle and lower trapezius to be over stretched. When muscles are overstretched, trigger points can occur because the muscles are working overtime to try to correct the faulty posture.


Trigger points can also develop in the levator scapulae muscle when the scapula constantly remains in a protracted position (rounded shoulders). When you add a forward head to this, the head is pulling the other attachment of the levator scapulae, which can lead to nagging pain in the upper back.


In summary, many of our neck and shoulder problems can be prevented with proper alignment!


Tune in next month for PILATES! We are going to talk about how you can fit a few easy, effective exercises into our day and improve our posture.