Posture is a big factor in neck and shoulder pain- especially with sedentary jobs. Generally in the human body we have muscles which keep us upright (stabilisers) and muscles which move us (mobilisers). Stabilisers are small “strap-like” muscles, which are really close to the spine. Mobilisers are much bigger and much more powerful and are generally closer to the surface of the skin.

Your head is heavy and is hard to keep upright to do this it uses stabilising muscles. Therefore your brain may ask other muscles (mobilisers) to help support your head. Imagine going camping and tying up all the guy ropes (mobilisers) on your tent. It looks like a tent, but if the wind comes along it loses all shape. It is therefore important to hammer in your tent pegs (stabilisers).

Muscles like to work, as this is what they are designed to do. Therefore the human body is prone to “Cheating”, this means it may ask mobilising muscles to do some stability. This could be due to damage to the stabilisers following an accident or through prolonged positioning meaning the Stabilisers need a rest.

If this occurs regularly then this can become normal. In the long- term this is not the best for the health of your spine. Firstly the mobilisers are much bigger and therefore demand much more blood supply and Oxygen than the stabilisers. Therefore they are not as efficient. Imagine a dimmer switch in a room, you have infinite possibilities of light and dimness (stabilisers), the mobilisers are more like a light switch therefore you have less control. There is also the necessity of having to work with inadequate blood supply and therefore creating more waste products, which can ultimately lead to pain.

Secondly as your mobilisers are having to work more at rest, they have less capacity to work when you need to move, which again can lead to a higher incidence or injuries such as facet joint or disc problems.

Imagine you are asked to carry a bag of sugar around for 5 minutes. When you return there is nobody there and you have to continue to carry the bag of sugar. As the day wears on that bag of sugar gets harder to carry as your muscles tire. Now imagine you have to perform a sudden task like catching a ball. You are less capable because your muscles are slightly compromised.

Links to websites with advice and self help

Physiotherapy for posture problems

You may also wish to see a Physiotherapist to identify the problem. The Physiotherapist may use treatments like mobilisations, massage and manipulations. They may use taping techniques to help to support your spine and place you into a good position. They would also identify appropriate exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles, create coping strategies and highlight useful ergonomic aids. Physiotherapists will discuss or look at your work station set up and make appropriate recommendations or changes.

How posture affects shoulders pain and what to do about it.

Open this PDF for a great leaflet on posture written by the MS trust.