Woman holder her shoulder while looking at computer monitor

How Correct Posture Can Alleviate Shoulder Pain

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 by Kimberly Fuller, PT, CEAS II

Kimberly Fuller, PT, CEAS II is a physical therapist and Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist at CVMC.

During October, Physical Therapy month, we are running a three-part series that explores how using your computer, phone or tablet for long periods of time can lead to eye, shoulder and/or neck fatigue or pain.

Have you ever thought about the amount of time you spend using electronic devices on a daily basis? I think most of us underestimate the amount of time that we do.

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Prolonged positioning, even with good mechanics, can cause limited motion due to the inactivity of the muscles and joints which then leads to fatigue and potentially pain.

In the first two articles, I talked about eye strain and neck pain. In this final article, I will talk about shoulder pain.

PART THREE: Shoulder

While volumes could be written about shoulders, our focus will remain on our topic of how electronic device use can contribute to shoulder pain. Head, neck and shoulder symptoms are often tied tightly together because of muscle orientation, origins and insertions.

A forward head posture pulls the shoulders forward as well, which can create a larger curve to your mid back, which then overstretches, making those muscles weak over time. It also places the front muscles in a shortened position, making them tight. All of this can contribute to a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of because it’s a pattern our bodies follow, making us susceptible to shoulder impingement and even tears at the rotator cuff.

What can you do to correct this?

  1. Be aware of sitting postures, make sure you know how your office chair works and set it up to support you in an upright position.
  2. If you have arms on your chair, see if they are adjustable or notice if they get in the way of gaining access to your keyboard, which causes excessive reaching.
  3. When you are using your phone or tablet, bring your device up to you instead of moving or leaning your body towards it. When working on a laptop or tablet, consider using a pillow in your lap to bring it closer to you.

No matter what work you are doing or where you are doing it, use these tips as a good measure of correct body position:

  • Shoulders should be resting in neutral.
  • Elbows should be bent up at no more than a 90-degree angle.
  • Frequently used items should be kept within easy swipe range in order to maintain your shoulder and elbow positioning.

Previous articles in this series:

Part I: Prevent Eye Fatigue from Prolonged Use of Your Devices
Part II: Posture and Stretching Tips to Keep Your Device from Becoming a Pain in the Neck