Your mother always told you to sit up straight. A study reported in the March 2015 Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery suggests that poor posture may increase rotator cuff tears and the associated shoulder pain.

Poor posture often is overlooked as a source of medical problems. As we age, our head comes forward and our shoulders begin to round, increasing pressure on our neck and shoulders. Physical therapists often prescribe exercises to correct posture.

In the recent study, doctors looked at more than 500 people from a mountain village and chose 379 participants based on their posture classification. The participants had a mean age of 62. Ultrasound exams determined whether rotator cuff tears were present, and participants then were asked if they had shoulder pain. About a quarter of the participants showed tears, but only about 3 percent of participants with ideal posture showed tears. For participants with poor posture, the tear rate varied from 49 percent to 66 percent.

That participants with poor posture showed many more rotator cuff tears by the time they had reached the age of 62 is not surprising, since poor posture can place day-to-day pressure on rotator cuff tendons. Although it’s possible that some participants may have a genetic predisposition to both rotator cuff tears and poor posture, it seems more likely that poor posture may have caused the tears.

If you look in the mirror and see your grandparent’s forward head or dowager’s hump, then it’s time to start working to realign your head and shoulders. (For exercises targeted to improve posture, see the free book, Orhopedics 2.0.)

Bad Posture Shoulder Pain? Is Your Rotator Cuff Torn Up? first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.