The modern workforce leaves many of us struggling with various forms of shoulder pain. Work-related shoulder pain is the most common type of shoulder injury. This is often due to risk factors such as lifting or carrying of heavy loads, continuously using technology at a desk and operating industrial machinery. If your day involves these activities, you may be at risk of developing work-related shoulder pain.
Types of shoulder pain
There are several types of pain that affect the muscles and tendons, as well as the range of motion near your shoulder:
- Swimmer’s shoulder: this pain is caused by tendons rubbing on the shoulder blade
- Dislocated shoulder: this is a severely painful condition where the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder blade socket by some external agent
- Bursitis: this is an inflammation of the bursae (pads filled with fluid that act as cushions at the joints)
- Rotator cuff injury: this is one of several common shoulder injuries and is caused by damage or irritation in one or more connecting ligaments at the shoulder level
Symptoms accompanying work-related shoulder pain
There are a variety of symptoms that typically accompany shoulder pain and may warrant medical attention. They include:
- reduced physical mobility
- neck pain
- restricted movement
- physical deformity
- painful movement
How to reduce and prevent work-related shoulder pain
Chronic shoulder pain is often caused by work-related routine activities. These steps can help to mitigate or prevent it:
#1: Change positions frequently
We tend to sit in the same position for a long time when engrossed in work. Avoid this and work to create the habit of frequently changing your positions while at work. Doing so will help to prevent straining in your shoulders, neck and back.
Alternate between sitting and standing while working. Walk around to help relax your muscles. Poor posture, leaning too far and too often, and bending your neck awkwardly should be avoided as well.
#2: Maintain good posture
Sitting correctly while working reduces strain in the shoulders and neck area. Avoid slouching to prevent strain as well. Try these steps to maintain good posture while sitting:
- Keep your feet flat and facing the ground.
- Make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Keep your lower back stable so that it provides reliable support.
- Hold your elbows close to your body and make sure they are supported by your body.
- Keep your wrists and hands in line with your forearms.
- Remind yourself to keep shoulders relaxed.
#3: Use a sit-stand desk
If your workday involves sitting at a desk throughout the week, a sit-stand desk may be a solution to work-related shoulder pain. Using one can help to strengthen your core and reduce stress in your upper body. In the standing position, your computer screen is comfortably placed just above the resting eye level.
#4: Rearrange your workspace
How are your computer, mouse, chair and keyboard arranged on your desk right now? Their positioning might be the reason behind your impending shoulder pain.
Make sure that your work desk is at the same level as your elbows. Set your computer at least an arm’s length away. Choose an adjustable chair with a supportive cushion that provides solid back support.
#5: Take frequent breaks to stretch
Frequent breaks from work also help to refresh the brain and body. Get away from your workspace and practice the following stretches:
- Raise your shoulders to your ears. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds. After holding, slowly lower your shoulder muscles. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Raise your arms in front of your body and interlock your fingers. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds. Next, extend your arms and rotate your wrists for at least a full minute.
#6: Try yoga
Another great way to improve your posture and reduce your risk of work-related shoulder pain is to practice of yoga. Here is a simple stretch you can try at your desk:
- Sit straight in your chair with your spine straight and feet together.
- Inhale deeply. While exhaling, twist from one side to another side from the bottom of the spine.
- Use your hands to deepen this twist.
- After a few more deep breaths, return to your original position.
- Repeat this twisting process on the other side.
#7: Do shoulder rolls
Shoulder rolls help to relieve tight muscles that develop after hours of sitting. Here’s how to do them in your workspace:
- With your chin tucked in, make your back perfectly straight.
- Roll the shoulders in the forward, back, up and down direction in a circular motion.
- Repeat this 5-10 times.
- Then, reverse the direction of rolling. Roll your shoulders in the back, down, forward and up direction.
- Repeat this 5-10 times.
- Work this exercise into your daily routine at least 3 times a day.
Want to see shoulder rolls in action? Click the video below:
#8: Use essential oils
Muscle pain is usually caused by inflammation and restricted blood flow. Essential oils can relieve these pains by alleviating the inflammation and promote normal blood flow. Chronic pains, pains caused by stress and other related pains can also be treated with essential oils.
Do’s and don’ts of work-related shoulder pain management
We’ve looked at a handful of popular methods to reduce strain in the shoulders and neck. Incorporate exercises and stretches you feel comfortable doing. Avoid overexerting yourself. Give your body time to warm up and adapt.
If you are suffering from other pain in the shoulders that cannot be relieved by these methods, seek out medical advice and a personalized pain treatment plan from a health care professional.
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