We’ve all felt it – that dull ache or sharp twinge in our shoulders after sitting for prolonged periods. Whether it’s at the desk during a long workday, behind the wheel on a lengthy drive, or even lounging on the sofa, shoulder pain can creep up unexpectedly. But why does this happen and how can it be avoided? Dive into this comprehensive guide on shoulder pain when sitting to discover the common causes, effective remedies, and preventative measures to keep the discomfort at bay.
Why Is Shoulder Pain Worse When Sitting?
Shoulder pain that intensifies or becomes noticeable when sitting can be attributed to several factors. While each individual case may vary, here are some common reasons why shoulder pain can be exacerbated in a seated position:
- Poor Posture
One of the most common causes of shoulder pain while sitting is maintaining a poor posture for extended periods. Slouching or hunching over a desk or computer can strain the muscles around the neck and shoulders. Over time, this can lead to tension, discomfort, and pain.
- Static Position
When sitting, especially for prolonged durations, muscles can become fatigued due to the lack of movement. Being in one position can cause muscles to become stiff, leading to discomfort or pain.
- Desk Ergonomics
An improperly set up workspace can force you into awkward positions. For instance, a monitor that’s too high or too low, or a chair that doesn’t provide proper back support, can lead to shoulder strain as you unconsciously adjust your position to accommodate the poor setup.
- Muscular Imbalances
Over time, certain lifestyle or occupational habits can lead to the development of muscular imbalances. For instance, always carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder or repetitive tasks, like constant mouse usage, can overwork some muscles while underutilizing others.
- Referred Pain
Sometimes, the origin of pain isn’t the shoulder itself. Issues in the neck, such as herniated discs or cervical osteoarthritis, can cause referred pain to the shoulder. Sitting can exacerbate this type of pain, especially if the head is jutting forward, adding extra strain on the neck.
- Stress and Tension
Psychological stress can manifest as physical tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders. When you’re seated, especially in a workspace environment, you may be more aware of this tension, leading to increased shoulder discomfort.
- Breathing Patterns
Sitting, especially if hunched over, can restrict diaphragmatic breathing. This can lead to more shallow, chest-based breathing, which can contribute to shoulder tension and pain.
If someone is experiencing persistent shoulder pain when sitting, it’s essential to seek medical advice.
What Helps Shoulder Pain From Sitting?
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain when sitting, it can significantly impact your daily activities and overall comfort. Fortunately, various home remedies and exercises can help alleviate this pain. Below are some suggestions:
- Cold and Heat Therapy: Applying an ice pack or cold compress can reduce inflammation and numb the area, which can help alleviate pain. Use for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours. On the other hand, warmth can relax and soothe sore muscles. Use a warm towel or heating pad for 15-20 minutes several times a day. Heat is especially effective for pain that results from muscle tension.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription NSAIDs like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, it’s essential to use them as directed and ensure they don’t interfere with any other medications.
- Epsom Salt Bath: The magnesium in Epsom salts can help reduce muscle soreness. Add a cup or two to a warm bath and soak for about 15 minutes.
- Massage: Gently massaging the painful area can help alleviate muscle tension and improve blood flow. You can use essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Topical Pain Relievers: Creams and gels containing ingredients like menthol or capsaicin can provide temporary relief from pain when applied to the affected area.
Exercises and Stretches
- Neck Tilts: Tilt your head slowly towards one shoulder, hold for 15-20 seconds, then tilt towards the other shoulder. Repeat several times.
- Shoulder Rolls: Roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion, then backward. This movement can help loosen up the shoulder joints and reduce tension.
- Doorway Stretch: Stand in an open doorway. Place your arms on the door frame so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Step forward with one foot, leaning forward slightly until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Pendulum Stretch: Bend at the waist and let one arm hang down, swinging it gently in small circles for about 10 rotations, then switch directions. Repeat with the other arm.
- Wall Push-ups: Stand a couple of feet away from a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly bend your elbows, bringing your body closer to the wall, then push back to the starting position. This exercise strengthens the shoulder muscles.
- Scapular Squeezes: Sit or stand with your back straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold for a few seconds and then release.
- Towel Stretch: Hold a towel behind your back with one hand, and grab the other end of the towel with your other hand. Pull the towel upwards with your top hand to stretch the lower shoulder.
Remember, if you’re experiencing chronic or severe shoulder pain, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any treatment or exercise regimen. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.
Should I Ignore Shoulder Pain When Sitting?
No, you should not ignore shoulder pain when sitting. Pain, especially when persistent, is your body’s way of signaling that something might be amiss. Ignoring such discomfort can lead to a worsening of the condition, causing it to become chronic or more challenging to treat. Continuous pain can result from various factors, such as poor posture, repetitive strain, or underlying medical conditions.
Without proper attention, you might unknowingly adopt compensatory postures or movements. That may lead to further musculoskeletal imbalances or issues. If you experience shoulder pain when sitting, it’s essential first to evaluate your posture and workspace ergonomics. And ensure they support proper alignment and comfort.
However, if the pain persists, recurs, or intensifies, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. Addressing the pain early can prevent more significant complications and ensure a better quality of life.
How To Prevent Shoulder Pain When Sitting?
Preventing shoulder pain when sitting goes beyond merely addressing posture and ergonomics. Here are additional strategies to help ensure comfort and health:
- Core Strengthening
A strong core helps maintain proper spinal alignment, which in turn reduces the strain on your shoulders. Engage in exercises like planks, leg raises, and pilates routines to fortify your core muscles.
- Incorporate Shoulder-Friendly Activities
Activities like swimming or rowing can help improve shoulder mobility and strength without placing undue strain on them.
- Variety in Tasks
Try to alternate between tasks throughout the day to avoid placing constant strain on your shoulder. For instance, after typing for an hour, take a break and do some filing or take a phone call.
- Optimize Chair Support
Invest in a chair with appropriate lumbar and armrest support. The armrests should allow your shoulders to relax without slumping.
- Mind Your Eye Level
Ensure that the top third of your computer screen is at or slightly below eye level. This ensures you’re not tilting your head and straining your neck and shoulders.
- Implement Mind-Body Practices
Techniques such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can promote body awareness, which can help you identify and correct tension in your shoulders before it becomes problematic.
- Use Technology Wisely
If you’re using devices like phones or tablets, ensure they’re at a level that doesn’t require you to hunch over or strain your neck and shoulders.
- Educate Yourself
Stay informed about the latest research, exercises, and recommendations related to shoulder health. Knowledge is a powerful tool in prevention.
By adopting a holistic approach and considering various aspects of daily life, one can effectively minimize the risk of shoulder pain when sitting.
Understanding and addressing shoulder pain when sitting is essential for optimal well-being and daily functionality. Persistent or worsening discomfort should never be ignored, as it could be indicative of deeper, underlying issues. By recognizing the signs early and seeking medical attention when necessary, individuals can not only alleviate immediate discomfort but also prevent long-term complications.
Embracing proactive health measures ensures a pain-free, productive, and improved quality of life. If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.