You often hear people talk about problems with carpel tunnel syndrome for those who work on computers all day. Less discussed are shoulder problems that arise from daily computer work. Shoulder pain is a form of repetitive strain injury, or RSI. Poor posture while working contributes to this problem.
Rotator cuff syndrome and frozen shoulder are two of the most common shoulder conditions related to computer work.
Muscle and Tendon Fatigue
You may feel tired working hour after hour on your computer, but your body experiences a fatigue that can result in tissue damage. When the muscles and tendons between your neck and wrist are held in one position for extended lengths of time, they experience fatigue. Most people who work at a computer are not aware of the strain they put on their shoulders.
The constant strain put on shoulder muscles and tendons can also be the result of muscle imbalances. Your shoulders are not usually in a resting position as you work; some muscles are used more than others, and this imbalance can cause your body to favor certain positions. This can make your body somewhat lopsided with some muscles becoming overworked while others become weak.
The pain you experience from muscle fatigue may be the tip of the iceberg. As the condition worsens, inflammation develops, and other symptoms appear. Among those can be nerve entrapment and the erosion of joints. Eventually, your ability to have full range of movement for your arm is impaired and, this can affect your work and everyday activities.
The Rotator Cuff
You may be familiar with rotator cuff injuries sustained by football players. Rotator cuff injuries can be the result of repetitive motion like throwing the ball or due to man-to-contact or falls. For those who tackle a computer for hours, repetitive motions and overworking the muscles can also cause problems.
The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles and their tendons working together. The muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. Together they stabilize the shoulder by holding the head of the humerus bone in the glenoid cavity, or socket, during movement.
Problems with the rotator cuff for office workers can develop from tears, inflammation and irritation of the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone. This is called rotator cuff tendonitis.
Impingement syndrome, also known as rotator cuff syndrome, develops as a result of damage to the tendons or the bursa. The bursa is a fluid filled sac that is located underneath the collar bone. This sac protects the tendons from rubbing against the collar bone and the ligaments.
Like the name implies, frozen shoulder limits the movement of the shoulder joint. The onset of frozen shoulder may be felt with a dull ache. Some activities may produce sharper pains. Over time, raising your hand to the back of your head or raising your arm horizontally may become increasingly difficult. Frozen shoulder can make daily activities painful, such as brushing your teeth or even bringing your hand to your mouth for eating.
This condition seems to affect people with certain health conditions more than the general population. Those with diabetes, neurological illnesses, inflammatory arthritis and hypothyroidism are at a higher risk for frozen shoulder.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Shoulder Pain
Frozen shoulder and rotator cuff problems are two common conditions that can cause shoulder pain. Accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain is critical to determining the most effective treatment. Fortunately, many conditions can be treated effectively with non-invasive methods.
Treatment takes on varying therapies depending on the source of the pain. In some situations, targeted exercises may help ease discomfort and increase mobility. In many situations, getting the inflammation under control is one of the first steps in treatment.
Attention to your posture, especially while working at the computer, taking regular breaks and stretching will be necessary. Your work environment will also need to be assessed to ensure that it promotes and maintains healing.
Your shoulder pain should be addressed before it becomes debilitating. Early diagnosis of a problem is more likely to result in faster and better recovery. Call Silicon Valley Orthopaedics to schedule a consultation if you are experiencing shoulder pain.