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Can bad posture cause neck and shoulder pain?

Can bad posture cause neck and shoulder pain?

The answer is yes. And bad posture is affecting more and more people at all stages of life.

Posture can be defined as a state of skeletal and muscle, balance and alignment, that protects the supporting structures of the body from progressive deformity and strain.  

Whether you are standing, sitting or lying down, good posture will allow your muscles to function with maximum efficiency and least strain.

An incorrect posture will therefore increase the strain on muscles, bones and ligaments and may cause injury and pain. Over time, muscles and soft tissues adapt by either shortening or lengthening. Muscles then become imbalanced, which can cause fatigue, joint stiffness and pain.

As a physiotherapist, one of the most common causes of neck and shoulder pain that I see is through Forward Head Posture.

Forward Head Posture Symptoms

Posture position shows a forward position of the head on the neck. This can be visible through:

  • Increased forward curve of the neck
  • Rounding or hunching of the shoulders

Forward Head Posture can become more prevalent during our lifetimes for different reasons.

In adolescence: During this period of bone development and change the body is more vulnerable to strain when carrying heavy bags, sitting at computers or computer games. Also; changing body image, shape and height.

In pregnancy: Excess strain caused by increasing weight and weight distribution, and loss of abdominal control. This combined with hormonal changes that cause ligament laxity will contribute to poor posture.

Adults: Occupations that involve prolonged sitting, standing, driving, lifting, and repetitive movements may encourage poor posture, and Forward Head Position.

Maturer adults: Age related degenerative changes cause joint stiffness, muscle weakness, and poor posture.

What can I do to reduce neck and shoulder pain due to poor posture?

Just simple everyday postural exercises will make a big difference.


1: Change Position- Often

  • Adjust your chair/car seat.
  • Carry bags on other shoulder/ babies on opposite hip.

2: Keep Moving

  • Stand up and walk about.
  • Stand up and stretch in the opposite direction.

3: Think Tall

  • Stand tall/ sit tall/ drive tall/ walk tall.

4: Sleeping Position/ Pillows

  • Find a pillow to suit you and achieve a neutral position for your neck.
  • If you sleep on your tummy, try not to.

5: Think about Equipment

  • Use a backpack, if you carry a heavy bag.
  • Use a headset, if you spend long periods on the phone/ use speaker on your mobile.
  • Use a supportive chair, or try using a lumbar support cushion or seating wedge.
  • Use a docking station to change your computer screen height.
  • Use a keyboard so you can alter your arm position.

6: General Exercise

  • Consider doing some regular/weekly whole body exercise to improve strength and condition of the muscles and joints. Yoga and Pilates classes are excellent, as well as swimming, walking, general keep fit classes.


7: Do Daily Postural Exercises

  • Chin tucks- Draw chin back to straighten and flatten neck curve.
  • Push Ups in Chair- Push down on seat pad to lift yourself off chair. 
  • Chair Grabs, with side neck bends- Hold seat pad with one hand and side bend neck away from that side.
  • Shoulder blades squeezes together.
  • Chest Stretch through door.

You will find some useful postural exercises for the neck and shoulder on our website. View here

Are you suffering with neck pain or shoulder pain? If so, physiotherapy can help. An initial consultation will work out why it hurts, then your physiotherapist will recommend treatment and exercises to help improve your posture and mobility.

With any form of neck pain or shoulder pain, you are far better to get yourself looked at sooner, rather than later. In particular, when shoulder pain persists, there can also be the concern of a frozen shoulder which is not pleasant at all.

Please feel welcome to come and see myself or Jacky – we are the physiotherapists at the Waldegrave Clinic in Teddington. We are always happy to help.

traceydimatteo100Tracey Di Matteo is a Physiotherapist at the Waldegrave Clinic.


Written on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 11:55 by Tracey DiMatteo

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