How to Prevent Shoulder Pain at Work

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain at Work

Physical-based occupations aren’t the only cause of shoulder pain. Working at a desk can often cause stress or injury as well, even when sitting hours at a desk doesn’t seem taxing. You may not think much about a stiff or sore shoulder—but if ignored, your pain could very well lead to repetitive strain injury: a constant deep aching, burning sensation in the shoulder and neck.

All these may cause shoulder pain:

  • Remaining at your desk for most of your work hours
  • Not moving away from your monitor during work hours
  • Sitting improperly
  • Using improper posture

Good Computer Posture Should Be at The Top of Your List

Here are some tips and suggestions to help you prevent musculoskeletal disorders, including shoulder pain:

  • Ergonomic workspace set-up is a must. If you can invest in an adjustable height desk. If you can’t, at the very least purchase a new mouse or armrest.
  • Begin with an adjustable height seat and lumbar support. Lumbar support will ensure that you’re not slouching and helps you to remain in correct posture at all times.
  • The top of your monitor should not be higher than your eyes.
  • Be mindful of your arms and hands positioning—wrists should be in line with your forearm and hand (not at an angle) when using your mouse or keyboard. Keep your wrist relaxed when using your mouse or typing on your keyboard.
  • Your mouse should always be located where you don’t have to reach or stretch to use it.Invest in an ergonomic mouse to achieve the proper posture—and remember to hold the mouse lightly while working.
  • Standing up and doing regular walks can also make a big difference as well. Every 20 minutes or so, take a short 15- to 30- second break. Take a few longer breaks during the day to walk around a bit and perhaps do a few stretches as well.
  • Invest in a headset so you don’t have to reach for the phone or find yourself in an awkward position during your calls.

How to Quickly Relieve Tension

While it may seem quick or easy to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to dull the discomfort and keep on working, frequent neck and shoulder stretches on a daily basis have shown to be more effective at easing pain than over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.

If you do find yourself starting to feel tightness or strain, do a chin tuck exercise, also known as neck retraction. While standing or sitting upright, keep your spine straight and push your head forward, jutting your chin out as far as possible. Slowly reverse the movement by pulling your head back as far as possible, as if recoiling away from someone. Your head should stay level throughout the stretch, which you’ll feel at the base of your neck. Repeat up to four times.

To relieve tension in your neck and shoulders simultaneously, face forward, tilt your right ear down toward your right shoulder, leaving your left arm hanging straight down to increase the stretch. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and repeat on the left side up to four times.


One of the most common musculoskeletal conditions reported after working at a computer for long periods is neck and shoulder pain. It is usually caused by a combination of postural strain, desk setup, monitor setup, seating, and stress. Determining which of these factors are related to your symptoms is the key to reducing your neck pain. Be sure your equipment and work station is set up properly and modify your workflow as needed to prevent postural strain.

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