Could lack of shoulder mobility be the cause of your low back pain?
When you consider everything that could be causing your lower back pain, is shoulder mobility even on your radar?
If you are like most people, you probably do not equate a lack of shoulder mobility to causing your lower back pain… but after reading this article, you may reconsider.
There is no one singular cause to lower back pain, especially since our bodies work in one unit. The misconception is we think we need to fix our lower back to alleviate pain, but pain in your lower back is caused by weakness, tightness, or compensation in other parts of your body. One of them being upper back strength or shoulder mobility. Wait, what do my shoulders have to do with my lower back? To answer this question, let’s step back and talk about the shoulders. The shoulders are complicated and have many moving parts. But let's simplify.
Your shoulder blades (scapula) are attached to your skeleton via your collar bones, which is in turn attached to your sternum. The scapulae are moved with your back muscles such as the rhomboid and serratus. If these muscles are weak or overstretched, your shoulders round forward. It doesn’t help that we spend much of our day sitting at a desk or hovering over our phones. And if you are a cyclist, the hours on the bike adds even more to the forward shoulders situation.
Why do my shoulders need to be mobile?
Remember that when we talk about “the core” it’s not just your abs. Your core is everything except your arms and legs. Which means your upper back is part of your core and the core supports everything we do.
Mobile shoulders allow for greater range of motion with your arms. Think about reaching up for a wine glass, or reaching back to put your arm through a coat. All require shoulders to have a range of motion.
When your shoulders are not mobile, it requires your lower back to be mobile. Your lower back is meant to be stable. If your lower back has to be mobile to compensate for the lack of mobility in the upper back, it becomes a contributor to lower back pain!
How do I know if I lack shoulder mobility?
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Make a goal post with your arms: elbows aligned to your shoulders and bent at 90 degrees with your palms facing forward. Without arching your mid back, bring your forearms and hands down to the floor, palms facing up. In order for your mid back not to arch which you do this, you have to allow your shoulders to rotate.
Now with your arms on the floor, palms facing up, extend your arms long. They should stay on the floor behind your ears.
If you are unable to accomplish the full range of motion, practice. Consistency is key. Sure you don’t need full range of motion for you to use your arms, but life is easier if you do. Plus, if you have low back pain, you may alleviate one of the culprits.