Shoulder pain from Computer Use

Frozen ShoulderHow might your Computer cause Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain and Computer Equipment are closely linked and a painful shoulder can be signs of RSI.

For computer users, RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is a real danger. Its effects can be permanent and you don’t always see that coming!

If you have Shoulder pain you should seek medical advice promptly to avoid further injury and our articles will help you understand Rotator Cuff Syndrome and Frozen Shoulder specifically.

Shoulder pain is often computer mouse related and exacerbated with carrying laptop bags. Read our recent article on an affordable vertical mouse or our vertical mouse page for an explaination of the issues and for advice.

More general information that might be of help regarding computer use and avoiding RSI conditions and other appropriate RSI support tools are below…

What is RSI?

RSI covers many varied conditions and some medical people disagree with the term “repetitive strain” however in the context of conditions caused by computer use, it seems an accurate description.

Muscles held at their extremes for long periods fatigue, put pressure on other muscles and lead to other problems such as nerve entrapment and accelerated erosion of joints. Computer posture typically involves unconsious muscle fatigue through postures held too long. Moderate work stress also leads to unconscious muscle tightening so the sources of RSI are easy to spot!

Good Computer Posture

Good PC Posture

Checklist

  • Adjustable height seat
  • Lumber support
  • Screen at arms length
  • Top of screen no higher than your eyes
  • Wrists not at an angle for either keyboard or mouse
  • Keyboard and Mouse should be close enough for your forearm to be near horizontal and in-front of you rather than at an angle away from you and your upper arm to be near vertical

    Keyboard and mouse should be roughly next to each other without your forearm drifting off at an angle to strain to use the mouse.

    These days with numeric and function keypads on keyboards it is making keyboards much wider than previously resulting in the mouse being too far away and further arm twisting. If you don’t absolutely need the extra function keys, get a compact keyboard instead.

Important advice to avoid RSI

  • Keep moving and don’t maintain any fixed posture for more than a few moments
    You need to move your body around a bit and not stay in a fixed position. Physiotherapists have suggested, humourously, that a seat with upturned pins on it is ideal…ensuring you didn’t sit there for long! Some large employers deliberately specify office seating with slightly harder seats to encourage more movement in the user.
  • Avoid working with your muscles tense
    Your mouse and keyboard are major factors to get right – note the point in red above!
    An ergonomic vertical mouse is a great improvement but if your keyboard is a yard long your ergonomics will still be high risk! All of the ergonomic equipment and advice are really aiming to reduce tension in your posture. It is holding a tense posture for too long that causes RSI conditions.
  • Carry out desk exercises to maintain mobility and flexibility
    In all cases, we advise you seek professional medical opinion (Doctor or Physiotherapist).
    Back and Neck postural problems often involve such things as “chin tucks” and you can read a concise explanation of many of the issues and appropriate exercises can be found on the Australian website PhysioAdvisor – Postural Syndrome

What treatment is appropriate

You can read about RSI conditions, symptoms and treatments on our webpages. Once symptoms appear, it is important to seek professional medical advice to establish a diagnosis. You might have something which is transient and will pass in a few days with care or it might be the start of something more difficult. Your Doctor or Specialist might need further information to diagnose your condition, such as x-ray, MRI, nerve conduction tests or blood tests.

Tendonitis conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, Golfers Elbow may respond well to rest; avoiding further muscle overuse through the use of tools and aids such as an ergonomic vertical mouse is wise. Osteoarthritis and nerve entrapment conditions are likely to suggest physiotherapy as an appropriate route for conservative treatment. Again, taking steps to reduce your risks using RSI tools is sensible.

If you carry a laptop, you should also consider how you carry it and where appropriate wheeled laptop bags will reduce your postural problems significantly and particularly relevant for shoulder and back conditions.

Although we would recommend going down the conventional medical diagnosis and treatment route, you should be aware of alternatives and things that you can do for yourself. We have provided links on the condition pages to physiotherapy exercises. Vibration plates are a means of having physical exercise at home and alleviating pain. Many people find acupuncture, reflexology, TENS machines, are helpful in pain relief.

Some Doctors are more open minded about alternative therapies and even alternative diagnosis.

    • Alexander Technique can be appropriate in reducing ongoing muscular tension, which is conventionally considered to be the cause of most RSI conditions.
    • MindBody (Tension Myositis Syndrome) Treatment can be liberating and is highly recommended for those with diagnosed RSI conditions who are looking into the future with some gloom.

Top priority – get yourself an ergonomic vertical mouse!

A conventional mouse creates two potential dangers:-

  • The image and video below show how a conventional mouse twists the arm a quarter turn from its natural resting position. If you use a laptop touchpad, notice how that also forces your arm into a strained and twisted position.

    Mouse Elbow - image of arm twisting

  • Your mouse wire may also trail down the back of the desk and unconsciously you may be using the mouse with your arm stretched as well.

If you have elbow pain too, rest is key to recovery. Avoid gripping, screwing/unscrewing things and lifting heavy items. Vigorous massage by a physiotherapist may be helpful and sometimes steroid injections.

Ergonomic mouse - vertical mouseErgonomic Vertical Mouse

An ergonomic vertical mouse is the best means of avoiding further computer mouse or laptop touchpad strain and as a preventative solution. Evoluent is the best, in our opinion, and our recommendation. Perixx and Anker are good however and at only a fifth of the price are well worth trying on a tight budget.

Vertical mice look strange but are surprisingly easy to get used to after 20 minutes or so and most sufferers feel relief immediately.

The Computer Posture store

Not for profit and existing solely to help follow sufferers