Bad Posture Shoulder Pain? Is Your Rotator Cuff Torn Up?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

bad posture shoulder pain

Are you concerned about bad posture shoulder pain? Your mother always told you to sit up straight! However, can your bad posture rip up your shoulder rotator cuff tendons? A new study suggests that it can.

Posture in medicine is often overlooked, but in physical therapy and chiropractic it’s often emphasized. As we get older, our head comes forward and our shoulders begin to round. Therapists often prescribe exercises to help this as the theory is that it places more pressure on areas of the neck and shoulders. However, can we walk back that bad posture to structural problems in the shoulders?

The new study looked at more than 500 people from a mountain village and chose it’s participants based on agreement of their posture classification by two different observers (379 people with a mean age of 62). Ultrasound exams were performed to determine if rotator cuff tears were present and then participants were asked if they had shoulder pain to see if any tears were symptomatic. About a quarter of the whole population tested showed tears, but only about 3% of the people with ideal posture showed tears. For bad posture, the tear rate varied by type from 49-66% of those tested!

The fact that people with bad posture had many more rotator cuff tears by the time they reach the ripe old age of 62 is not surprising, as this can place more day to day pressure on rotator cuff tendons. While other things could be causing this association (i.e. people with bad posture have bad genes that predispose them to rotator cuff tears and bad posture), to my mind it’s more likely that the posture caused the tears.

The upshot? If you look in the mirror and see the forward head or dowager’s hump of your grandparents, then start working on getting your head and shoulders back! You’ll find some exercises and more on this topic in my book, Orthopedics 2.0 (look in the Symmetry section).

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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