Tight shoulders? Blame it on the sugar?

Dr. Samelak is excited to have Amber Horn, NTP, LMT as a guest blogger today! Amber tackles tough topics with her clients like how blood sugar can impact your posture. I feel like I want to shout that out- Did you even know that your tight shoulders and hunched posture could be, in part, blood sugar related?

Amber and I recently geeked out about this topic and thus, a blog was born!

Can my tight shoulders be tight because of my blood sugar?

shallow focus photography of woman in black shirt
Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu on Pexels.com

Yes, it’s true! Let’s talk logistics.

Excess sugar consumption puts a strain on your whole body, but most notably your pancreas. One of the many functions of the pancreas is to release insulin when blood sugar rises. Blood sugar rises from stress, eating sugar, processed carbohydrates, and even fruit. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to unlock the cell “door” to allow glucose (sugar) into the cell and out of the bloodstream. Eating many meals and a diet high in sugar and processed carbs creates the need for constant insulin production. The pancreas then gets tired AND the cells stop listening when insulin attempts to usher sugar into the cell (insulin resistance). This happens over time and will be represented by low energy (especially after meals), difficulty losing weight, high fasting glucose and/or HA1C, among other symptoms. Since our bodies are essentially a fancy electrical system, this imbalance starts diminishing connections throughout the body.

One of these connections is muscle to organ and organ to muscle. These occur in common pairs throughout the body. Due to this connection, when an organ is in stress, it weakens the corresponding muscle. This allows the opposing muscle to become chronically tight, which creates adverse muscle and structure patterns. (Think poor posture or feeling tight no matter how much you stretch) The latissimus dorsi muscle corresponds to the pancreas and when the pancreas is stressed it weakens the lats, allowing the trapezius (brings shoulders to ears) to tighten without opposition. You’ll go broke spending money on bodywork if don’t address the root cause, which is a pooped out pancreas from excessive sugar intake. Who knew?!

Below are some action items to help balance blood sugar so your bodywork is worthwhile AND sustainable.

Action Items:


  • Keep sugar intake to 25g a day maximum.


Recent World Health Organization recommendations are for 25 grams or less of added sugar per day. Just for reference, a can of Pepsi has 33 grams of sugar and a lot of popular granola bars have 7-10 grams of sugar! If you’re not paying attention, you can meet your maximum by lunch. This leads into our next item.


  • Check your labels


food healthy vegetables potatoes
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Food manufacturers like to hide added sugar in anything and everything. Educate yourself on all the names that sugar is listed under on a label. It’s in everything from ketchup and almond milk to granola bars and spaghetti sauce. A great question to ask yourself while shopping is “Does this food have ingredients or is it ingredients?” Fill your cart with ingredients for the most part and you will be on your way to keeping your blood sugar balanced. This often involves shopping the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the aisles.


  • Always pair carbohydrates with protein and fat.


Even if it’s not added sugar, carbohydrates can still spike blood sugar. Start thinking of snacks as mini meals and set yourself up with a carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This will help prevent sugar highs and dips and creates a food template and blood sugar that is in balance.


By helping to keep your blood sugar regulated, you can support your organ systems and your overall health. Please remember that this blog is not intended to be medical advice. It is important to consult with your medical doctor, chiropractor, nutritionist/dietician, etc prior to making major dietary changes to be sure that your body can handle the changes.

About the Author:
fullsizeoutput_18Amber is a professional trifecta, seeing clients as a functional nutritionist, massage therapist, and personal trainer. Her passion is figuring out the cause of imbalances that her clients come in with. After decreasing her own depression and regulating hypoglycemia through food choices and targeted supplements, her focus is helping others find optimal mood balance and decrease symptoms related to diabetes and other blood sugar imbalances. Amber lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with her husband, Steve and adorable pittie, Lucy. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and reading, and is a die-hard Gryffindor.

Travel Smart- Chiropractic Travel Tips for Flying

Flying can be a pain. Literally. You haul yourself through lines at security, toting your carry on luggage. You wait for your flight in uncomfortable seating or on the floor. The planes are cramped with uncomfortable seats and not enough leg room. The air is dry and blows into your face. You finally reach your destination and are so thankful to be done flying that you haul your carry on luggage down the aisle of the plane and breathe a sigh of relief.

It can be better with some planning.

  1. Carry On Luggage
    • Your carry on suitcase is a strategic decision.
      • It is important to choose a lightweight suitcase, preferably with multi-directional wheels. This allows you to push it down the narrow aisle of the airplane and more easily lift it into the overhead bin.
      • Lifting your case into the overhead compartments can be a challenge. By keeping the case light, and talking with your chiropractor about proper lifting technique, you can spare yourself some discomfort in maneuvering your luggage.
    • Your personal item can make or break your trip.
      • A tote bag or large purse seems like a good idea for a personal item. They hold a lot and can be quite fashionable.
      • I prefer and recommend a backpack for your personal item. You can pack your empty purse inside or in your main luggage. Remember to place your belongings in the backpack with the heaviest closest to your body (ie: laptop). Lighter items can be placed farther from the body.
      • backpack-499000_1920
        A backpack is an excellent choice for a personal item when flying.

        Most backpacks have many compartments which allow you to stay organized and evenly distribute weight. I prefer packs made by backpacking companies like Osprey or Deuter because they are lightweight with many compartments.

  2. Dress the Part
    • Between security checkpoints and the prolonged sitting involved in plane travel, clothing can be an important part of trip planning.
    • Ladies, your hairstyle matters!
      • I have longer hair and have to be sure that my hair is either down or in a top knot. If my hair is in a ponytail or on the back of my head, it forces anterior head positioning.
      • Anterior head positioning causes increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders as well as promoting further poor posture
    • Wear comfortable shoes
      • Shoes should be easily removable for security, but should also be comfortable and practical.
      • High Heel ShoesHeels should be avoided because of the extreme angulation that they place the ankles in- not to mention the positioning of the pelvis while walking.  ***Stay tuned for a future blog that discusses the problems with high heels and their health impact***
    • Choose pants that allow for full hip range of motion. Tight pants, especially jeans can cause nerve and blood vessel impingement with prolonged sitting.
    • Consider compression socks for longer flights. These socks help improve circulation and can help with leg aching with prolonged inactivity.
  3. Remember Posture
    • We mentioned posture when choosing your hairstyle on a travel day… But it goes so much further. Good posture will help prevent low back pain and upper back pain from traveling.
    • Sit fully back in your seat and make sure that you are sitting on your “sit bones” not your tailbone.
    • Place both feet flat on the floor.
    • Adjust your headrest for optimum support.
    • Focus on alignment.
      • Think of your rib cage and your pelvis like 2 bowls.
      • Start by making sure that the bowl of  your pelvis is balanced and upright.
      • Now, line up your rib cage over it.
      • Make sure that your low back is not rounded or crunched forward.
  4. Hydrate
    • The dry environment in an airplane can dry out your mucous membranes- hydrating can keep them healthy and protect you from getting a cold while on an airplane.
      • When your nose dries out, it doesn’t protect you as well from viruses and bacteria.
  5. Sun Salutations!Forward Fold
    • Following your flight, it is time to move. I love how gentle yoga is to help me work the kinks out of my body after a day of travel. Sun salutations will help you to lengthen your spine and loosen tight muscles.

I hope that some of these tools will help you to feel better and be better prepared when you next travel. Please remember that this blog is intended for educational purposes. It is good to speak to your Chiropractor or Primary Care Physician to ensure that these tips are right for you.

Posture- Is it really important?!


Posture is probably one of the most important things that I see in every person I come into contact with.

I check posture in every single exam and observe it before my patients get onto my table each visit.

Posture is an outward indicator of stresses within the body. It shows us where there are imbalances and chronic issues. It can predict future injuries.

Posture influences:

  • Blood Flow
  • Nerve Flow
  • Joint Function
  • Muscle Tension
  • Hormonal Balance in the Brain
  • Perceptions of Others
  • Perceptions of OURSELVES
  • Breathing
  • This list could go on forever!…

Posture really is that important.

So what is good posture anyway?


The graphics above are mainly focused on the low back, pelvis, and lower body. However, we can see how a gravity line should be able to be drawn straight down our bodies from the side to demonstrate proper posture.

If I held a piece of string with a weight on it at the height of  your ear, it should fall through the shoulder, through the hip, just behind the knee and through your ankle to the ground.

When I think about what this feels like, imagine that someone has tied a string to the crown of your head and is gently tugging upward. Your chin will tuck slightly, your spine will lengthen, shoulders are able to relax, and tailbone tucks slightly. (This is seen in the far left photo, above. The photos to the right demonstrate increased forward head posture with hands rolled forward and low back rounded.

From the front, posture is focused on horizontal lines as well. I ask myself, “Is everything level and equal from side to side?”

  • Are the eyes level or is the head tilted?
  • Can I see an equal amount of ear on each side?
  • Are the shoulders level?
  • Are the hips and pelvis level?
  • Is the spine in midline?
  • Are the hands in front or at the sides?
  • Are the shoulders rounded?

Both of the photos above demonstrate asymmetries, but note how the left side photo demonstrates rounding of the shoulders, head tilt, right sided torso shift, etc. The photo on the right has far better posture.

How can I fix my Poor Posture?

Posture can be remedied in a number of ways.

What activities are causing the poor posture and can they be changed?

Often, poor posture is a response to a chronic position that we work in, relax in, or a repetitive activity. When this is the case, I look for ways to modify the activity or improve work ergonomics.

Is there a skeletal component?

Sometimes, we have held a posture for so long that we have, literally, changed the shape of our spine in response. In these cases, it usually takes chiropractic care and rehabilitative exercises to begin to make changes in the spine- resulting in changes in posture. As a chiropractor, there are many ways that I work with the spine and joints to help stabilize and improve posture.


All of my patients leave the office with some type of homework. We are creatures of habit and our brains rewire themselves to perpetuate these habits. This means that it takes consistent movement correction to repattern the brain. Remember the phrase: Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together. This means that we have to fire correct patterns of movement over and over again to train our brains and bodies to correct our posture.

Be diligent!

It is also immensely important to be aware of our posture in the moment. I set a timer when I am doing computer work (blogs like this, patient notes, etc). When the timer goes off, I get up and do some exercises to improve my posture. It is inevitable that when we sit at a computer, our head drifts forward, our shoulders round, and we generally sit poorly. The same stands true for watching TV, standing in lines, looking at your phone or tablet!

Overall, posture is one of the best things that we can pay attention to to know how our biomechanics (the way we move in daily life) are programmed. Take a look of the last few photos someone has taken of you (selfies don’t really work) and see if you notice any of the things I have mentioned above.

Take control of your posture and start changing your health!

As always, contact me if you would like help with meeting your health goals!

-Dr. Sharonrose Samelak, Chiropractic Physician