We have all, at some point, experienced an unpleasant feeling somewhere in our body after a few hours of work. It doesn’t always have to be the same region, but it does, however, mostly happen for the same reason – bad posture. So, in simple words, how does bad work posture cause shoulder pain?
When talking about pain in the shoulder girdle, it is important to note that pain in the neck often masks it. The other problem is that doctors and physiotherapists generally diagnose this in a wrong way. In this particular case, it is common to think that this pain originates from the neck or the lower part of the back. But that is mostly not the case, as shoulder pain has a specific mechanism from which it stems.
Sitting and how it affects our body
Sitting is generally not good for our body. The forces that sitting generates are not something that our body wants for a long period of time. Parts of our shoulder region, especially the back side of the shoulder, such as the scapula bone, the trapezius (the muscle in the back of our shoulder), and the rotator muscles, fight the pressure that various parts of the shoulder region experience during our time at work.
We will, of course, often try to hold our posture the way it should be held, but the body will not be able to withstand that for a long period of time. It will relax itself, and try to find a position that suits it a little bit more, still holding the position as correctly and upright as possible. Of course, the hand rests and the back of the chair are helpful, but this is just a short term relaxation which is also not as good, but can be helpful in some short periods of time.
How does bad work posture cause shoulder pain?
In most real world scenarios, people who work at least 8 hours a day spend at least 10-12 hours a day in a sitting position. It takes time to reach work, leave work, eat and possibly spend some time on their PC or laptop at home. During that time, we are in a position that hurts the so-called soft tissues of our shoulder region, and puts all the pressure on them and the back of our shoulders.
This happens because of the position that we are in when we use our PCs, laptops or even phones. In those positions, we are sitting bent forward, with our shoulders facing inward. At that point, the upper back bends forward, the muscles that hold the arms and the shoulder blades (which are now split apart), are not able to withstand the pressure, and thus the shoulders are moved inward. In this case, the front part of the shoulders takes an even heavier pressure and this lasts for 5-6 days a week, weakening the muscles, tearing them, and ultimately leading to regular pain in the shoulder area.
You can also check out our previous article that might share some more insight on how does bad work posture cause shoulder pain and why is sitting and a non-active life bad in general.
The shoulder region and possible issues
The shoulders have a lot of muscles that can do the job we need, if we tend to them properly with exercise and stretching, but we’ll get to that later. Right now, we’re all about helping you understand how it all works.
It is important to say that muscles are the main source of power for our body, in charge of stabilizing the body and moving it the way it should. When muscles are in a position where they are not able to do their job, they stretch, losing strength in the process. That is the point when soft tissues take over. However, soft tissues should simply not have a role like that in a human’s body. This will happen mostly while we work, more specifically, when we sit for a long period of time and bend forward in the process. The soft tissues then stretch and experience an inflammatory process with minor pain, to begin with.
The amplifier for all this is a non-active lifestyle. The strength of a body with this group is lowered significantly as they aren’t active enough during the day. Muscle and tissue mobility is reduced, posture is even worse, and the body balance, in general, is very bad. The two main issues that cause pain and discomfort in the shoulder area, are:
Repetitive strain injury
Once the muscles in the shoulder region stretch to their limit and tire out, they will lose their strength. The first response from the body will be an inflammatory process and pain. The body will attempt to recover itself after we finish work, that is the most natural thing for the body. However, since we have to go to work tomorrow, it has less than 15 hours to recover – that’s not enough.
In that process, something called a Repetitive strain injury occurs. To put it simple – the body is tired of trying to fix something we aren’t allowing it to fix. If we constantly repeat the same behavior, we are literally repeating the same injury day after day. This injury is, in most cases, happening due to:
-Constantly stressing the same group of muscles
-Having a bad posture at work
-Lacking physical fitness
-Going a full day without stretching the muscles at least once
-Having no breaks at work that release the pressure from our muscles
Fibrosis happens due to small tears in the muscles that heal without being stretched before that. If we strain our muscle constantly and let it heal the way it has to, while being under pressure still, it will shorten the muscle and not let it have its full length. This will lower the mobility of the region that has experienced this.
Preventing shoulder pain
Studies have shown that it takes 15-20 minutes to start inflicting injuries to your shoulders if there are no activities. Of course, that is if there are no activities other than working in front of a computer. If you use use arm rests and chair backs – that will help, but only for a short period of time. We like to say that this is more of a psychological, than physical type of relief.
Of course, not every person’s body is identical. People who have had previous injury or some changes on their body, will not experience every problem the same way. In general, this is the best advice that we can to provide:
-Having breaks every 20-30 minutes to reduce stress on the shoulder region
-Spend some time at work doing short preventive exercises to relieve shoulder pain
-Make sure that you don’t have a badposture while sitting
-Increase in body activity after work
In conclusion, stretching and activating your body is the best thing you can do to help your shoulders.
It doesn’t take much time, and it helps the muscles heal properly – every day. Keep stretching regularly, especially at work, and most importantly the days that you are not working. You will eliminate the possibility for shortening of tissue due to it healing in a wrong way. You will eliminate pain by regularly relaxing your muscles, and they will be well “fed” by the body. The muscles will then be able to reach full potential and have the strength to withstand the necessary stress. In 3-6 months, you will be able to go the entire day without ever having a problem with your shoulders.