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Sit Up Straight: How Poor Posture Can Cause Shoulder Impingement

Have you been experiencing moderate to severe shoulder pain? If you notice your shoulder feeling tight or have trouble raising it above your head to reach things on shelves, you might have a condition referred to as “shoulder impingement.”

This can be extremely painful to deal with, and if it goes untreated, it can cause several problems down the road. Thankfully, physical therapy can help! Contact our office today to learn more about our safe and effective treatment options for this condition at Arroyo Grande Physical Therapy.

What Is Shoulder Impingement?

In most parts of your body, your bones are surrounded by muscles and tendons that allow you to move around freely. Your shoulder is a little different though, because it’s actually made up of three bones. These bones are the humerus, or arm bone, the scapula or shoulder blade, and the clavicle or collarbone.

Instead of being “covered” in tendons and muscles, these three bones are attached to one another by something called a “rotator cuff.” At the top of your arm bone, there is a lubricating sac called the bursa, that allows the rotator cuff to move freely when you move your arm.

If the bursa becomes inflamed, or if the rotator cuff tendons become damaged, the result can be significant pain in the shoulder. However, when you raise your arm to shoulder-height, the space between the rotator cuff and the bone at the top of your shoulder (referred to as the acromion) narrows. The acromion can rub against the tendon or bursa leading to shoulder impingement.
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What Causes Shoulder Impingement

Normally, shoulder impingement is caused by overhead repetitive motions. Construction workers, painters, swimmers, tennis players, baseball players, and weight lifters are all highly susceptible to shoulder impingement.

However, athletes are not the only ones that can be affected by this condition or find themselves unable to lift their arm over their head without pain! Shoulder impingement is caused by the shortening of the space between the acromion and the rotator cuff. Having poor posture can also shorten that space. The posture we hold while working, typing, reading, texting, eating, cooking, and exercising can all have an impact on the amount of subacromial space we have available in our shoulders.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

It is very common for people who suffer with shoulder impingement to find that they have difficulty lifting their arm above their head. They might be unable to lift something overhead or have trouble putting on a shirt or jacket.

As previously stated, if left untreated, shoulder impingement will cause more problems. For example, it will wear down the tendons or bursa in the shoulder, and cause a tear to occur in the rotator cuff. This often requires surgery to repair it, which can not only be extremely expensive, but also keep you in recovery mode for quite some time.

You might be wondering how you can know for sure that you are dealing with this condition. According to WebMD, “Diagnosis of impingement syndrome begins with a medical history and physical exam by your doctor. X-rays will be taken to rule out arthritis and may show changes in the bone that indicate injury of the muscle. Bone spurs or changes in the normal contour of the bone may be present.”

How Physical Therapy Can Treat Shoulder Impingement From Poor Posture

It doesn’t matter what motion caused your shoulder impingement. The first goal when experiencing this condition, should be to reduce the inflammation in your joint. You can do this through anti-inflammatory medications or the application of ice when pain occurs. Once your inflammation has been reduced, the best way to get rid of shoulder impingement pain for good is to see a physical therapist.

physical therapist will be able to perform a thorough physical examination and rule out other underlying causes for your pain. They will also create a customized treatment plan designed just for you and your symptoms. Treatment is likely to include avoiding repetitive, overhead motions for a time, but it will also include stretches to reduce the impingement and strengthening exercises to prevent it from recurring.

If your shoulder impingement is due to having poor posture, your physical therapist is also likely to recommend adjustments to improve it. Making sure you have an ergonomic workspace, including your chair, desk, and computer screen height can do wonders for improving your posture. Stretching appropriately throughout the day will all treat the underlying cause of your shoulder impingement and keep it from coming back.