You work long hours behind a desk, seated and hunched over. Suddenly, you feel shoulder pain! It’s been slowly creeping up in your shoulders, or perhaps across your shoulders between your shoulder-blades.
This is a common injury I see at our practice. However, is this truly where the pain starts, or is there a hidden culprit?
The biggest complaint that our patients present us with involve shoulder pain that is actually referred pain from the lower neck. What many people don’t realize is that the tight muscles and trigger points across the shoulders are signs that there are pain signals coming from the neck. Learn more about neck injuries here.
Your upper back may be getting stiff which makes the neck unstable, and this refers pain back to your shoulders. When this happens, you risk damage to nerves that run from your neck to your shoulder. It’s best to seek treatment from a Chiropractor to prevent further injury.
Symptoms often vary depending on the more specific nature of the injury. The severity of pain can feel mild to severe, and it can be intermittent or constant. However, there are some specific shoulder pain conditions where it would be important for you to see a doctor.
- Tingling sensation through the shoulder and down your arm
- Numbness or weakness through your shoulder and arm
- Localized shoulder pain (especially along the nerve) that can continue to the arm
- Pain is persistent
- Your range of motion is significantly impaired
So what can you do about this? You need to mobilize, strengthen, and straighten.
Mobilize your upper back by being in constant motion, stretching appropriately, and taking ten to fifteen minute micro-breaks frequently from work. Getting adjusted with a chiropractor is also an appropriate way to improve movement and unlock the stiff areas in your back.
A sit to stand station can help your back and neck, and we certainly do provide ergonomic evaluations at our office. Yet, this is only one piece of the wellness puzzle. Giving yourself time away from the desk to take a walk, stretch your spine and neck, move your shoulders back is essential. Your body needs a moment from the pressure you’ve been exerting on it to feel movement again and keep things from feeling locked.
Beyond the workplace, a regular exercise routine coordinated with your doctor depending on your specific injuries can help strengthen the muscles. Strengthening your muscles in your shoulders that support your neck help make you more resilient to pain and postural problems. An ounce of prevention in this case is certainly worth a pound of cure.
Finally, straighten yourself by watching your posture and ergonomics. Kinesio tape along your back, or back support braces can help make you more aware of your posture. The truth is posture is mostly about developing good habits, which can take time. These tools, however, can help you be more conscious of your movements.
In addition, I often work with my patients providing them with a postural evaluation. They are often surprised at how off-center their posture is. Once we’re aware of their situation, we can come up with a treatment plan that will help get them more upright. When your body is more aligned and centered, it’s able to support you more evenly causing fewer strains and injuries along areas where there’s more pressure.
Dr. Todd Lloyd