How Posture Affects Shoulder Health
The shoulder is the most complicated joint in the body. The anatomy consists of several bony joints, or “articulations”, which connect the upper limbs to the rest of the skeleton and provide a large range of movement.
The three bones which form the shoulder girdle are the clavicle (collar bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone). The most important aspect of the shoulder is the large range of movement that it permits, which is central to many activities of daily living.
The muscles and joints of the shoulder allow it to move through a remarkable range of motion, making it one of the most mobile joints in the human body. The shoulder can abduct (move away from the body), adduct (pull in toward the body), rotate, be raised in front of and behind the torso and move through a full 180° in the sagittal plane. This tremendous range of motion also makes the shoulder extremely unstable, far more prone to dislocation and injury than other joints.
Working together to control movement of the shoulder are 18 muscles: 7 of these muscles link the central skeleton to the shoulder blade and collar bone; 9 muscles link the shoulder blade and collar bone to the arm bone; but only two muscles link the arm bone to the central skelton.
Good posture is key to the overall health of the shoulder.
Poor posture is one of many causes of joint damage. When you have good posture, you sit, stand and walk properly so that your skeleton is properly aligned, your weight is evenly distributed and your body is in balance. When you have bad posture, your bones move out of alignment, shifting the balance of weight and putting unnecessary stress on your joints. Over time, when bad posture results in misalignment of the bones, you may suffer from chronic joint pain and limited range of motion.
Causes of Poor Posture
Anything that causes poor posture will, over time, affect your joints. If other family members have poor posture, you may inherit the tendency to carry your body out of alignment. Fatigue can cause bad posture--as can poor sleeping positions, leading to misalignment of the spine. High-heeled shoes and ill-fitting shoes throw off your body's alignment, ultimately putting pressure on the joints in your spine, legs and feet. When you work on a computer, you have a natural tendency to lean your head forward and hunch your shoulders, causing poor alignment of the joints in your neck and upper torso.
Effects of Poor Posture
Damage from poor posture may be to the muscle or cartilage that protects each joint or directly to the joints themselves. If you have bad posture, you probably slouch with your shoulders bent forward when you sit, and lean forward holding your head down and in front of your shoulders when you walk. Over time, this positioning of your head and upper torso can result in undue pressure on the neck and shoulder joints. Pressure on the neck and shoulder joints may cause headaches as well as joint pain. Undue stress and tension on your joints from poor posture can also cause excess wear and tear on joints that may lead to arthritis, chronic pain and fatigue later in life.
Manage your Posture
To protect joints from stress, pain and possible deformity, your body must be balanced by good posture. Performing posture-strengthening exercises and practicing good posture to realign the skeleton can correct bad posture and take the pressure off your joints. An image you can hold in your head to help you stay aware of your posture when you sit and walk is this: Imagine there is a thread pulling you up from the top of your head, like a marionette puppet. When the string is lax, you fall into misalignment. When the string is pulled taut, your head is held high and straight and every bone in your body is aligned--from your head down through your back and legs to your toes.
The Roll of Massage in Proper Posture
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to fixing structural deficiencies. Massage as a tool assists primarily through stress management. Relaxing overly tight muscles allows boney structures to return to their correct position. Massage also assists you in becoming more aware of your body. Achieving muscle balance through strengthening muscles that have been elongated and weakened through years of poor posture, and by lengthening chronically tight muscles is another benefit of clinical massage.
The Role of Yoga in Proper Posture
Yoga views a person’s posture as a physical manifestation of one's inner state. One's view of the world and one's mental, emotional and spiritual state is reflected in how a person carries him or herself. Poor posture often begins in childhood with a lack of awareness which becomes habitual and self-sustaining. This pattern becomes further reinforced and perpetuated by the stress in our lives and chronic neuromuscular tension. Yoga can change this.
Conscious static stretching is the first step. This is how you begin to penetrate to the chronic patterns of neuromuscular tension and change them. Important to note: Yoga poses should always be adapted to the specific individual doing them. Stretching is always done gently, in a natural manner and with a feeling of relaxation. If it hurts or makes you sore afterwards, or if it feels wrong, it means something is wrong. “No Pain, No Gain” – Not in Yoga!
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