How Alignment Affects Shoulder Pain   

How Alignment Affects Shoulder Pain

Woman holding her shoulder in pain from shoulder misalignment.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Siddhant Mehta, M.D.

Many of us end the day slumped on the couch after spending hours hunched over a computer, and often feel stiff and sore. Much of that has to do with our shoulders and their alignment, says Siddhant Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., an orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Palisades Medical Center

Does Shoulder Misalignment Lead to Pain?

While we tend not to think about shoulder alignment, if something is askew, it can lead to pain. “If shoulder alignment is not correct, it can affect the range of motion in the shoulder and muscle strength,” Dr. Mehta says. 

Shoulder movement is a coordinated dance between the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collar bone). If one of these is out of sync, it can cause a variety of issues.

What Are the Signs of Shoulder Misalignment?

If your shoulder is out of alignment, you may experience:

  • Pain around the shoulder blade
  • Difficulty raising your arm
  • Weakness
  • Winged scapula (one shoulder blade sticks out further than the other)
  • Neck issues or neck pain

What Can Cause Shoulder Misalignment?

The shoulder can become misaligned for a variety of issues, but Dr. Mehta says it’s predominantly caused by poor posture. Other causes include:

  • Traumatic injury sustained, for example, while playing sports or in a car accident
  • Congenital issues

How to Prevent Shoulder Misalignment

Correcting poor posture is challenging because it’s second nature, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself improve:

  • Be aware of your posture and correct it when you’re slouching.
  • Try yoga to help strengthen back and shoulder muscles.
  • Get moving. Your muscles tire when you are in one position for a long period, and slouching is more likely.
  • If you work in an office environment, use proper ergonomics by sitting squarely at your desk with your computer screen at the resting eye level.
  • Wear proper corrective eyewear if needed. This will prevent you from straining or hunching forward to see.
  • Don’t overload bags or backpacks.

If You Suspect Shoulder Misalignment

If you experience pain, weakness or changes in your normal range of motion, schedule an appointment with your health care provider. If your doctor believes you are suffering from misalignment, they may recommend physical therapy. 

“Scapular stabilization exercises in physical therapy can strengthen certain muscles around the shoulder. This will help keep proper alignment and reduce pain,” says Dr. Mehta.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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