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How does a hidden low back issue cause shoulder problems?

by | AGEING WELL

In the last few weeks we have seen an influx of new practice members with shoulder pain, loss of movement in the shoulder and rounded shoulders. I don’t think this is an epidemic but rather that we have had several people who have had success with chronic shoulder problems and so they are talking about this in the community.

What are people saying about their shoulder pain?

They are relaying that their chronic shoulder pain is reducing and that they have much better movement of the shoulder. At the same time they are noticing that their low back is feeling more mobile and less stiff, even if they were unaware of any low back pain prior to attending Buderim Chiropractic.

How is the low back related to shoulder issues?

The pelvis can be sprained and like the ankle it can be a low grade chronic low grade sprain or an acute (sudden) severe sprain and anything in between. When we say pelvic sprain we are talking about the sacro iliac joint which can be located by putting your hands on your hips and the spot  that your thumbs land on at the back is where the SI joint lives. The picture below shows a simplified example of what a right SI joint sprain might look like.

As you can see by the picture, the pelvic sprain creates a chain reaction up the spinal column and the right shoulder gets affected. It drops down due to the muscles in the right torso tightening to protect the sprain. By dropping down the shoulder puts a strain on the lower part of the neck or cervical spine which is also where most of the nerve supply to the shoulder comes from.

How do we help people with shoulder problems?

Some people with a pelvic sprain are unaware of it as they don’t have low back pain and they cannot imagine that it is contributing to their shoulder issues. What I have found however is that by clearing the pelvic sprain (gently using blocks) we take our first steps toward  allowing the shoulder and neck to recover and improve.

As an example lets take Greta, she is 72 years old, very active and loves her lawn bowls. About 18 months ago she started getting stiffness of her right shoulder after bowling, soon after she found that she couldn’t lift her elbow to the side and then she started getting pain in the front of her shoulder. She was well on her way to a frozen shoulder and she found exercises to help strengthen her shoulder too painful to do. She felt stuck and unable to enjoy her favourite pastime not to mention that she was feeling socially isolated.


When I spoke with Greta we found out that she had been very active in her younger years with lots of running and tennis. She had had a frozen shoulder in the past but that time it responded well to a cortisone injection unlike this episode.


After a thorough history and examination we did indeed find that Greta had a sprained right pelvis and once cleared it we were both amazed at how much further she was able to lift her arm compared to before. And this was before we even did any work on her shoulder. Greta has since been able to return to bowling and is very happy with her renewed zest for life.

What other areas of the body can be affected by a pelvic sprain?

Due to the type of pattern that a pelvic sprain creates we often see the following issues usually on the same side as the sprain.

• One sided headaches
• Jaw pain
• Knee pain
• Groin pain
• Elbow & wrist issues
• Pain on the side of the hip – unable to sleep on the side

And due to the metabolic effects of a chronic sprain we will often see these issues

• Unstable blood sugar – cravings & fatigue
• Mood swings
• Period pain
Do you know anyone who is experiencing shoulder problems or any of the issues above?
Ask them to call Buderim Chiropractic to see if we can help them the way we have been able to help so many others.

About the author
Hi! I’m Gabby. I’m a chiropractor and I’m on a mission to teach others how to look after their bodies in meaningful ways by making small lifestyle changes that will have a big impact over time. I help people to create peace in their own body. Find me on Facebook and in my practice ‘Buderim Chiropractic’.

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