We want to talk about how you can get rid of neck or shoulder pain at work! When you think of professions that use their shoulder joints at work, you may think of lumberjacks or construction workers, but this is a misconception. In fact, many types of professionals, including medical staff and office workers, use (and abuse!) their shoulders at work.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with three main bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula). These bones are held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. Because of this mobility, the shoulder is more likely to be injured or cause problems. You don’t have to use an ax to chop wood to get an injury. On a regular basis, you use your shoulders in awkward postures when you:
● Reach for the mouse
● Extend your arms in front of you, reaching for the keyboard
● Raise your shoulder to cradle your phone while keyboarding
● Elevate arms above your shoulders
● Use a chair with arms that are not properly adjusted and are too high
The effect of static postures
Whenever you hold a posture for a long time, it is known as a static posture. When you do that with a position that is bad for your shoulders, you sacrifice your own health and well-being. For example, if you use a standard height desk (around 29-30”) and use a standard chair, without any adjustment or accommodation for your own height and body, you may be creating an awkward static posture when typing or reaching for a mouse. Some of us end up sitting in this position all day long.
Tips to protect the shoulders from injury at work
These 5 tips will help you keep your shoulders relaxed and your body in proper alignment. Take time to follow these tips to protect your body and your overall well-being.
1. Avoid reaching
When we sit at a workstation that does not fit our bodies, we find ourselves reaching up or forward to be able to use our tools (usually, the keyboard and mouse). Set up your workstation properly by raising your chair to fit the desk height, adding support for your feet, and making sure your shoulders are relaxed as you work.
2. Lower the keyboard
Most of us use a desk that is too high for our bodies. Add to that the placement of the keyboard on top of the too-high desk, and shoulders are bound to tense up. An easy fix is an ergonomic keyboard tray with adjustable height. With a lower keyboard, you can easily relax your shoulders as you work.
One of the tools we use most often is our mouse. In fact, we use it so regularly, that it becomes second nature. We may not even realize that, as we are mousing around, we are reaching, extending, raising, and tensing our shoulders. A solution is a roller mouse that can be placed in front of the keyboard so that you do not have to extend your right shoulder or reach to use the mouse. Make sure that your elbow and wrists are level with the keyboard, that your shoulders are relaxed, and that your elbows are by your sides when using the roller mouse.
4. Ergonomic office chair
How much of your day do you spend in your office chair? Said another way, how much of your life do you spend in your office chair? You don’t need to buy an expensive custom chair, but you do need an ergonomic office chair with working parts that adjust, so that you can customize it to fit your own body. Make sure your chair has a seat and back that are height adjustable, and the chair back tilts with an angle that is greater than 90 degrees for upright working posture. When you sit in it, make sure it is high enough so your elbows are level with your wrists when typing.
Make sure to take breaks from your work to rest, stretch, and hydrate. Also remember that protecting your shoulders is a greater responsibility than a full-time job. Be good to your shoulders at home, too. Make sure your bed is a good one and that it is level. Consider your sleeping postures to alleviate pressure on your shoulders from side sleeping. Just like you create new habits at work, do so at home, too.
Why are shoulders so important?
Naturally, because they have spent a lifetime supporting your head. Now, it is the head’s turn to give back! At Kare Products, we often see people who come in after their shoulders are already in pain. In effect, we are the proverbial shoulder to cry on . . . about shoulder pain. Use your head: take care of the shoulders that take care of you!
About Karen Burke
Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.