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Screen Habits and Shoulder Pain

Q: Is your shoulder pain connected to your screen habits?

If you don’t know how to sit at a computer, but you are logging many hours in front of the screen each day, you may find the cumulative effects of prolonged screen time have presented you with a stiff neck and shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain due to an injury may be easier to pinpoint than pain which develops more gradually or over time, such as shoulder impingement or the many different types of shoulder arthritis, or a number of other painful shoulder conditions which impact range of motion and quality-of-life.

The weight of the world may be on your shoulders, but preventative care and good screen use habits can minimize or help you avoid painful shoulder conditions.

If you work daily or often use a computer, here are some tips to consider:

  • Minimize eyestrain (which will minimize neck and shoulder strain) by keeping the screen at eye level, avoid screen glare, and periodically look away from the screen.
  • Move the mouse in closer to the keyboard (or get a mouse bridge) to minimize the neck and shoulder-straining cycle of repeatedly reaching toward the right for the mouse then turning left toward the screen. Try alternating sides the mouse is on if you’re feeling ambidextrous.
  • Reboot yourself and take a break from the computer every 30 minutes even if it’s just to stand up and sit back down—though a short walk or stretch would be better.
  • Consider a standing desk or a sit-stand model, if possible.

Speaking of screen use, perhaps the worst and farthest-reaching cause of neck strain– which then may impact the shoulder– is the virtually universal bad habit of constant cell phone use.

Between social media, phone apps, and texting, Americans spend countless hours each day looking down at their cell phones. Your neck muscles support your head all day. In an upright position the average head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. But when hunched over a phone, gravitational forces on the neck cause it to “work as hard as it would if the head weighed 60 pounds “. That’s quite a burden, especially on top of the strain of the other daily bad habits. So do your best to limit cell phone use or at least while in that position.

Ignoring shoulder pain is not wise as it may worsen or lead to the development of other more serious shoulder conditions. Seeing an orthopedic surgeon for pain in your shoulder does not necessarily mean you will need surgery. Principles of non-operative treatment can often be used to resolve many painful shoulder conditions.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, a skilled orthopedic surgeon will be able to pinpoint the problem. Dr. Peter McCann is the Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital and sees patients from New York and nationwide in his private practice in the Union Square area of Manhattan. Call 212-844-6735 for an appointment to have your condition properly evaluated.

Posted in: SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT

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