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  • Mitchell Rothbardt

Fitness Starter Pack: Posture and Pain

Every day at Castro Valley Fitness we talk to our members and many times the conversations are about the same types of things. We have certain foundational beliefs at our gym and we’ve seen the truths of those things play out time and again over the years and with hundreds of our members.

I thought I’d do a series on these things so that maybe we can help you understand what our foundational beliefs are when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

We’ll start with Posture and Pain.

Many of our members come to us with different kinds of pain. Shoulder pain is the most common and back pain is number 2. Here is what we’ve found:

  1. Age itself has little to do with the prevelance of pain.

  2. People with back pain tend to exhibit excess movement through the low back.

  3. People with shoulder pain tend to exhibit excess movement through the trapezius (the muscles in between your shoulders and your neck) and neck muscles.

  4. People with back pain tend to exhibit a lack of movement through the hips.

  5. People with shoulder pain tend to exhibit a lack of movement through the scapula (shoulder blades).

  6. People with both shoulder and back pain almost always exhibit general postural problems.

  7. People with both shoulder and back pain ALWAYS show general movement patterns that contribute directly to their pain.

Did you notice that I didn’t even mention any kind of imaging tests? Studies have shown that a high percentage of people with no pain still show disk issues and rotator cuff issues on imaging tests:

Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations

Ultrsound of the Shoulder: Asymptomatic Findings in Men

What does that mean? It means the majority of people with no pain at all, STILL SHOW PROBLEMS ON IMAGING TESTS!! 

What does that mean?

It seems like it means that disk and rotator cuff issues MAY NOT BE THE PRIMARY CONTRIBUTORS TO BACK AND SHOULDER PAIN!

Well, the next logical question to ask is then:

What is causing pain if it’s not necessarily rotator cuff or disk issues? 

See my list of findings above, particularly the last one:

  1. People with both shoulder and back pain ALWAYS show general movement patterns that contribute directly to their pain.

Let’s put it simply:

If you have shoulder or back pain, it is your every day

movement patterns that are likely the cause!

By the way, this isn’t just me talking here. Stuart McGill is probably the world’s foremost authority on back pain and spine health. Here is a quote taken directly from one of his seminars:

“Most times, people’s habitual movement patterns reveal why they have back pain.” – Stuart McGill

Now, I know it can be weird to hear that many of those expensive tests your doctor is ordering for you don’t mean much, but I do believe that to be true much of the time, and even in cases that did require more serious medical intervention, I don’t think I’ve ever had a client in pain who didn’t benefit from improving their basic movement patterns.

Obviously in a blog post it would be impossible to cover the entirety of what “good movement” is but I do want to give you some kind of idea.

In the video below I show you a few things we do to help people discover good hip and shoulder movement.

Let me emphasize one thing, however:

You have to apply these movements to your life




And here’s where it gets hard.

You have to do that when it’s the most difficult. When things are stressful. When you aren’t normally thinking about something as small as how your hips are moving. When you’re brushing your teeth and leaning over the sink. When you’re driving. When you’re typing.


Because that’s when things are falling apart. You can practice good movement all you want, but it’s when you are distracted that your movement goes awry. Once you can step back, breathe, and adjust that is when this will start coming together. It’s not an overnight process and it’s not easy, but it works.

Again, what I’ve shown you here is just the start. Everyone is different and the specific movement patterns you need to work on may not be the same as someone else, but the fundamentals of good movement apply to everyone.

Let me know if you need help putting your movement together.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS Castro Valley Fitness 2861 Grove Way 510-755-9191 Let’s Help Clear the Confusion in Fitness and Nutrition

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