When you step into your office and sit down at the desk, I’m going to make a wild guess that your shoulders aren’t the first thing on your mind.
You’re brain is probably already in overdrive with what you forgot to finish yesterday, what’s due today, and dare I say a whole bunch of things that have absolutely nothing to do with work.
So your shoulders are not making it into the morning conversation you’re having with yourself.
But at some point today, if you’re like the majority of home office workers, you’re going to reach up and rub your shoulder, try to massage out the pain in your neck, or let your arms drop down to your sides just to give them a few seconds rest before diving back into work.
And you probably aren’t even aware you’re doing it.
Maybe those shoulders need a moment of consideration.
REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURIES
Most people agree that working on a computer all day is a pretty sedentary job. There no heavy lifting required, no squatting or kneeling, not even very much walking. There’s no outdoor elements, uneven terrain, or heavy boxes to carry.
So Why Does Our Body Hurt?
The pain that happens from office work sneaks up slowly. Because the damage that first occurs are small strains at the micro level. And we generally ignore the initial twinges and chalk it up to the belief that everyone has pain when they work.
But these strains are injuries; to tendons, ligaments, and muscles. And what makes these injuries go from little strains to debilitating tendonitis or bursitis, is repetition. Repeating the same movement that caused the micro trauma, over and over again.
Think about how many times you reach for the mouse or the backspace key in an hour. Then multiply that by the number of hours in your work day. That’s repetitive.
We usually think of injuries to our body as coming from one single event like trying to lift something that’s really heavy. So when we wake up the next day with a sore back or tight shoulders, we know exactly what happened to cause our pain.
But repetitive strain injuries are sneaky. We can’t think back and recall what caused the pain or even when the pain began.
But that doesn’t mean we ignore these injuries. Because that pain can lead to serious consequences. The little ache you thought you could live with can turn into tendonitis so painful and so inflamed that you can’t lift your arm to put on a shirt.
Treatment for long standing injuries like this take a lot of time and a lot of therapy.
If you’ve been struggling with aches and pains in your shoulders and if that pain’s now traveling up into your neck or down into your hands, you might be tossing around a few ideas looking for a solution.
You’ve probably thought about booking an ergonomic assessment. It might have even made it onto your To Do List.
And I’m going to bet that you’ve thought about replacing some of your office equipment. Maybe something that has the word ‘ERGONOMIC’ on the box has caught your eye. You might even be thinking that ergonomic equipment is the easiest way to solve your pain problems.
But that’s where frustration with pain turns into overwhelm with the online world of ergonomic equipment.
How do you know what to buy, what size, what style? Should a mouse cost $12 or $100? And what about the price for some of those sit-stand desks??? The cost can be the same as your monthly mortgage payment.
You believe that investing in your body is worth it. But does paying more money actually get you more help when it comes to ergonomic equipment?
(most of the time the answer is no).
And hours later, you come up for air from the online shopping fog to realize you’ve wasted the better part of your day and still have no resolution. That’s because you still don’t know what your body needs.
The reality is…
It’s not a piece of equipment – not a new mouse, a funky shaped keyboard or even a sit stand desk that’s going to fix your shoulder pain.
Ergonomic equipment can be supportive in the office but not until we take a look at the root cause, the foundation, and that’s you.
THE REAL ERGONOMIC SOLUTION IS PROPER BODY MECHANICS
Proper body mechanics is the key to getting rid of the pain that’s been nagging you in the office.
And yes, the solution is that simple.
It only gets complicated when you don’t know what your body needs and throw a bunch of equipment at the problem that:
#1 doesn’t fit your body
#2 can’t help your body alignment
#3 can make your pain worse and cause injuries
Your body wants to be in alignment. It’s happy there and requires very little help when it’s in a nice neutral position.
If you want more information on why Body Alignment is the #1 solution to office pain and better ergonomic assessments, you can read about it here.
The simple answer to shoulder pain and body tension is giving your body the foundational position where it can rest and then teach your body the easiest way to perform tasks. And that happens with proper body mechanics. No amount of equipment can teach your body the most efficient way to move or how to properly align the musculoskeletal system to use less energy.
The real solution is simple. Finding out how your body’s moving and correcting what’s not in alignment. This solution brings lasting results because it gets to the actual cause of the problem.
To find out if you have proper body mechanics, you need to analyze how you move.
It’s an amazing skill set that requires both education and experience. Because someone’s body mechanics, how they move and function, is unique to each person. And completing a Biomechanics Analysis should be the first part of any Ergonomic Assessment.
You want your assessment to be based on YOU. Your range of motion, your asymmetries, and your movement patterns. A Biomechanics Analysis is a check to see what can be contributing to the pain and tightness you have. If you have restrictions, limitations, and require accommodations, a Biomechanics Analysis is the only way to address these issues and ensure your ergonomic assessment will be specific to your needs.
How to Check Your Biomechanics At Home
If you want to do a little self assessment, then start with the first step of the Foundations First Framework. And that’s looking at your range of motion.
If you look at your joints individually, you can evaluate the range of motion for each joint. You’ll determine if there’s any restrictions in movement as well what ranges cause pain.
For the shoulders, I recommend going through the Shoulder Movement Quiz.
This is an easy and informative way that not only helps you test your shoulder range of motion, but also guides you on how your shoulders should be moving. If you’ve been compensating and using other muscle groups to make up for tight and sore shoulders, you need to know this.
Remember, the goal is to get to the cause of the problem. That’s the only way to solve it.
You can access the quiz from the link below.
Once you’ve determined that your shoulder mobility isn’t causing any issues with your biomechanics, then it’s time to look at how you’re moving within the office and looking at your office setup.
HOW TO DECREASE SHOULDER PAIN IN THE OFFICE
The first thing you need to know is that work shouldn’t cause pain.
Pain is a sign that something’s wrong.
Your body is talking to you and letting you know it needs some help.
It’s also not a badge or a sign that shows how hard you’re working.
The office is not your Gym.
So here’s Your Step-by-Step Process (click this title)
KEEPING PROPER BODY MECHANICS IN THE OFFICE
Throughout your work day, pause and give your body alignment a check. You want to make sure that the work you put in to get your body into alignment sticks with you throughout the day.
If you find that you start to slouch or lean during the day it’s a good idea to evaluate how you got into that position. Was it a misplaced item on your desk, an arm rest that’s too high and therefore too easy for you to lean on?
This is the fine tuning stage.
Find the triggers that may take you out of proper body alignment and adjust your work flow and work envelopes to disengage those triggers.
And remember, mindful movement breaks are good for the body and brain.
We’ve covered the spine and the shoulder today so you can check on these and make sure you’re keeping things where they should be. Your neutral postures will make sure you don’t overuse muscles. Your awesome body alignment also lets your joints have the rest they need in between activities where they need to be active.
The bonus to proper body mechanics is improved energy, both mentally and physically.
When your body is aligned you’re able to focus on work instead of pain, allowing you better mental acuity, with less muscle activation. You need less time to complete projects and more energy at the end of the day.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only related to common musculoskeletal pain that can arise from clerical duties. Prior to attempting any of the outlined strategies within this article, or any information through MB INTL or Aligned Ergonomics, see the advice of your treating health care professional who has knowledge of your individual medical history, abilities, and limitations. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice or individual treatment requirements.