Does Slouching Cause Neck And Shoulder Pain?

A study from Sweden in 2015 compared the effect of a slouched, rounded shoulder to a more ideal and upright posture.

Investigators were interested in understanding how slouched posture affected the neck and shoulder function and the muscle activity in the large back muscles — specifically, the upper trapezius, lower trapezius and the serratus anterior.  They were particularly interested in if slouched posture affected the range of motion, muscle activity and arm elevation.

The study was comprised of young adult males without a specific injury.  They performed maximum arm elevations in both upright and in more slouched postures.  The researchers found that the slouched posture resulted in significantly less arm range of motion, the speed of muscle contraction and a decrease in peak muscle activity in all three muscle groups.

Upper Cross Posture

This rounded back, slouch posture is called an upper cross posture and is characterized but a rounded upper back, tight muscles on the front of your neck, tight pectoralis (chest) muscles and tight and weak upper and mid back muscles.  This posture changes the function of your upper back, shoulder and neck and often leads to symptoms of neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain and headaches.

In the last many years with an increased computer and cell phone time, this has become a very noticeable problem.  In our practice we regularly, if not daily, see even very young patients who are struggling with these symptoms.

1000's of Hours Per Year Looking Down

As you can guess unless corrected this problem tends to get worse and not better over time with the average adult spending 2hrs or more on their phone per day and the average teenager up to 5hrs per day.  Add this to the already significant time you spend looking down at your computer, or desk or time spent studying.  This head forward upper cross type posture is responsible for a significant increase in symptoms of neck, upper back pain, and headache.  

The good news, appropriate home exercise, micro-breaks and spinal adjustments can have a profound impact on these symptoms and can help to correct the stress placed on the spine and muscles by an upper cross posture.

This posture is so important in the development of shoulder pain that exercises and adjustments to correct this posture are often our ‘go-to’ treatment for patients with shoulder pain, neck pain, headaches and upper back pain.  

Mobility in the upper back is a critical area to address when helping patients with this slouched posture.  Restoring and maintaining mobility with proper exercises and adjustments as well as strengthening the affected muscles can go a long, long way to remedying this posture and reducing or eliminating the symptoms of neck pain, upper back pain, headache and shoulder pain.

If you or someone you know are suffering from symptoms of neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain or headache give us a call.

Dr. Russell Baron


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