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Shouldering On Through Pain?

How Do Your Shoulders Feel?

Most people have achey shoulders some or all of the time. . The shoulder joint is a shallow ball-and-socket joint between the humerus — upper-arm bone — and the glenoid fossa of the scapula, the shoulder blade. It is one of the most mobile joints in the body.

This joint has only one bony attachment to the rest of the skeleton between the collarbone and the breastbone and it uniquely allows a wide range of normal shoulder range of motion, including abduction (moving out to the side), flexion (lifting arm up), extension (moving behind the body), lateral rotation (rotating forearms away from body) and medial rotation (rotating arm towards body).

There are many muscles and tendons in this area that facilitate all of these movements. Many people are too tight through the front of their chest and shoulder and lack strength and mobility in the back of the shoulder.

Why Do Shoulders Get So Tight?

  • Too many pressing exercises in the gym and not enough pulling (ideally push: pull should be 1:3)

  • Too much time spent over a computer

  • Too much time spent in a head forward over phone position

  • Poor Uncorrected posture

  • Lack of strength training to body or specifically upper body

What Is The Impact of Poor Training or Posture?

  • Tight shoulders

  • Tight neck and trapezius muscles

  • Lack of mobility in the shoulders and thoracic spine

  • Pain

  • Pain further down the kinetic chain ie mid or lower back

  • Difficulty performing other full body movements like squats, deadlifts and lunges

  • Injury

  • Loss of sensation in muscles

What Can You Do to Heal Your Shoulders?

  • Mobility exercises ie taking your shoulders through the ranges of motion as listed above

  • Focus on good posture while driving, standing sitting. Pull shoulders back and down; but don't over exaggerate, keep them in a neutral position. Invest in a standing desk.

  • Spend less time on phone.

  • Strength Training will help your posture and strengthen the muscles that need it most. Good strength training will help you to understand where your shoulders should ideally be placed while conducting full body exercises.

  • Physiotherapy/ osteopathy. Sometimes help is required to release over tight muscles and to correct postural patterns.

Overall, living in pain with your shoulders is unnecessary and highly correctable.

Ally van de Pol is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Pain Free Performance Specialist (Level 2) and Senior Exercise Specialist. She can be contacted at

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