What could be causing your shoulder pain?

When does your shoulder pain come on? While you’re at the desk, when you’re trying to sleep, reading in bed? Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t, it’s unpredictable. Like most musculoskeletal disorders, the cause of shoulder pain can be elusive.

When Back on Track is engaged to conduct a workstation ergonomic assessment, we do not refer to a checklist. We use our ‘physio eyes’ and clinical reasoning, firstly to diagnose the problem and secondly to identify the source of loading that is causing the problem.

For an office worker, a common source of overloading is from sustained holding of the ‘poked chin, rounded shoulders’ posture.

While raising awareness to maintain a healthy, neutral posture is important, this alone will be ineffective if the workstation encourages the ‘poked chin, rounded shoulders’ posture. Common workstation faults that promote awkward postures include:

  • Using the mouse at a distance from the body by reaching too far forward or too far to the side. The elbow should be bent to around 90° and kept beside the waist.  Reaching forward or sideways involves sustained muscle contraction, known as static loading, and our muscles really don’t like static loading! Static muscle contractions, even at low exertion, are thought to cause a build-up of metabolites causing pain that is often described as burning.
  • Having the screen too far away or having fonts that are too small can also encourage awkward neck and shoulder postures, as workers lean forward to improve their vision, inadvertently experiencing the ‘poked chin, rounded shoulders’ posture.

So next time your shoulder is playing up and bothering you when you’re trying to sleep, don’t blame the mattress or the pillow. Consider where your exposure to awkward, sustained postures may be coming from. Consider these tips:

  1. Bring your mouse in close so that your elbow is bent and beside your waist.
  2. Recline into the back rest and read an email. Ask yourself, is the text comfortable to read from that relaxed, reclined position? Do you feel yourself needing to lean in? If so, then increase your font sizes and display settings. Alternatively, perhaps a visit to the optometrist is in order.
  3. Keep your shoulders back, chin in and think tall.

Slouched back verse straight back

If your shoulder pain persists, see your physiotherapist and contact Back on Track for an ergonomic assessment.