Shoulder pain

Question: I have a very painful shoulder that has gradually got worse over time; I spend all day in front of a computer moving a mouse about with my arm stuck out at more or less the same angle. I’m sure that this is the cause of my pain. It’s this shoulder that hurts. Does anybody have any suggestions for exercises that I might do to ease or correct this problem?

Answer 1: Anything that puts your shoulder through its full range of movements and stretches the trapezius and related upper back muscles and also the deltoids and upper arm muscles (for a start). The pectorals are quite important too.
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More importantly though, try to look at your positioning, how you sit, your desk and chair height, where your mouse is and general workplace set up. Perhaps try swapping the mouse to the other hand or trying a different type of pointing device. Try to bring the mouse nearer your body/keyboard so you’re not reaching out, which may be what’s causing the strain as well as the general static positioning. In theory, I think, your elbow should stay somewhere near your side with your forearm at ninety degrees to your upper arm and your upper arm vertical in line with your body: at least that’s the recommended typing posture and I think it’s meant to be one that which doesn’t cause strain – reaching forward certainly does for me – in fact, I just can’t do it anymore, full stop. Sometimes people find a smaller keyboard helps and/or a trackball or touch pad.

But most importantly, take frequent rests and breaks, let your arm relax and hang, get some movement into your shoulders – shrugs, swings, rotations. Stand up and walk around. Try not to rest your hand on the mouse or desk top when not absolutely necessary. The whole idea is to try not to let your arm get strained at all by un-natural positions and not to leave it static or under any strain at any time. Arms are not naturally designed to be stuck out in front of us like that and they do tend to complain about it – quite vigorously. Lots of ideas, no time – sorry. Try some of the ergonomics and related websites – again, quite a few are mentioned on the list.

Answer 2: Can you lift your arm above your shoulder? (That is, without massive pain!). You could have a condition called “frozen shoulder” (there must be a more “medical” name than that), in which case you should tell your doctor, and if possible — have tests done. My mother had it (repetitive movements caused it). It does go away, but you do need to get it checked and get some appropriate treatment, physio and pain relief, as well as taking any appropriate ergonomic steps.

Answer 3: I too have a painful shoulder problem. My osteopath taught me three good exercises designed to strengthen the muscle that holds the shoulder in place (i.e. the ones just under your collar bone). They are a bit difficult to explain in writing, but you’ll feel it if you get it right!

1. Stand in a door frame (or something similar!) and grasp the frame with the hand on the side that is painful – hold the door’s frame so that your hand is about a foot above head height – stretched but not strained. Then, keeping every other part of you still, push your shoulder forward (NB do not push your arm or your body forward). You should feel a stretch across the front of your shoulder and up your arm. Hold this stretch for a while, relax and repeat – for as many times as poss. This really helps me.

2. Hold both your arms at right angles to your shoulder and straight out at your sides. Place your hands so that the fingers are pointing upwards and your palms are facing away from you at right angles to your body. Imagine you are pushing a brick wall on either side of you and hold the stretch for as long as you can (you should feel this almost in the same place as before but a little lower). Hold this stretch for a while, relax and repeat – for as many times as poss.

3. Stand against a wall as correctly as poss (!) and push your head and neck backwards into the wall very gently. When you have the double chin effect (!) slowly bend your neck sideways towards the side where the pain is. Hold this for a second then keeping the same position lift your chin and look towards the ceiling (keeping the neck bent sideways). Again hold the stretch and repeat.

You should do these stretches very very gently and check with your doctor first that it is ok for you to do them. Hope it helps.

Answer 4: As a Pilates teacher, I would say that it is necessary for you to look at your posture and shoulder alignment. I teach my clients who have computer/desk related shoulder pain to slide their shoulders down to release the overworked muscles. I also teach them to use their abdominal stabilising muscles. I would need to know more about your pain to be able to make more bespoke suggestions. Have you heard of a ‘Sitfit’? Basically it is an air-filled plastic cushion that you sit on. It helps build up stabilising muscles and is very good for helping the lower back from seizing up. This, combined with trying to pull your shoulders down and, ideally, getting a few Pilates lessons so that your technique is perfected, would, I think, help you.

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