Sitting or standing at your office desk all day for 8 to 10 isn’t exactly a workout. However, it can be physically demanding, and may be the cause of your shoulder pain and/or discomfort.
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Find out why you may be experiencing shoulder pain at work and how to overcome it.
Work and shoulder pain
When you think of shoulder pain at work, you may think of physically demanding jobs like construction. Indeed, lifting heavy objects repeatedly overhead may cause shoulder pain or injury over time. But office work, too, can also be the culprit.
Most of us spend hours each day glued to our computer screens, for both work and play. The problem is, sitting or standing incorrectly and for hours on end may be causing your shoulder issues.
Here are some pointers that may help reduce or prevent your shoulder pain at work:
Reducing or preventing shoulder pain in the workplace
Sit or stand in a natural position. Whether you sit or stand in front of your computer, your body should be in a natural and relaxed position. This means keeping your desk even with or below your elbows—you don’t want to shrug your shoulders all day because your desk is too high.
Maintain good posture. Be conscious of your body position while working at your computer, and aim to have good posture. If you’re sitting, try to remember these steps:
- Place your feet flat on the floor
- Push your hips toward the back of your chair
- Keep your elbows close toward your body, and your forearms, wrists, and hands in straight out in front of you
- Relax your shoulders, but don’t round them
If you’re standing, stand tall and don’t slouch. Standing on a softer surface, like an anti-fatigue mat, and wearing tennis shoes instead of stilettos can help you maintain that upright position.
Change your position. Some people to stand for a few hours, then sit for an hour or two, followed by more standing. The desire for variance makes sense because fatigue eventually settles in whether you are sitting or standing. As a result, your posture can suffer—rounding your shoulders or leaning in an awkward position—which may lead to discomfort.
Take breaks. Taking breaks can not only help you physically, but mentally as well. Try detaching yourself from your computer screen for 5 or 10 minutes a few times each work day and take a walk around your office building or do a few stretches.
Here are a few stretches to try:
- Raise your shoulders up toward your ears, hold this position for several seconds, and lower your shoulders back down.1
- Bring your arms in front of your body and interlock your fingers. Then, extend your arms out in front of your body and rotate your wrists so that the tops of your fingers are facing your body and hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.1
Taking breaks several times throughout your day can give you the physical and mental boost you need to have a productive and comfortable work day.
Consider your habits outside of work. What you’re doing when you’re not in the office could be affecting your shoulders, too. Maybe you've just started a new exercise program or increased the intensity of your current workout. This may leave you with lingering muscle aches.
Perhaps you've got the opposite problem: you sit all day at work and then you come home and sit more, say in front of your television or computer. In this situation, some exercise may help. For example, taking a yoga class may help build up your muscles in your core, which can help your posture.2 Speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
Sometimes listening to your body and making a few simple tweaks are all you need to avoid shoulder pain at work.
- Computer and Desk Stretches. University of California Santa Cruz website. http://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/ergo/stretch.html. Accessed November 30, 2016.
- Avoid Shoulder Pain at Work. Healthline website. http://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/shoulder-pain-at-work#Prevention3. August 16, 2016. Accessed December 1, 2016.