We tend to associate shoulder pain with sports such as tennis and baseball, or with the aftermath of moving around our living room furniture. Few would ever suspect that the cause is often something as typical and inactive as sitting at our desks. However, it turns out that staring at our computer screens for more than eight hours a day can have an enormous impact on our shoulders’ deltoid, subclavius, and trapezius muscles.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates that the typical computer user hits their keyboard up to 200,000 times per day. Over the long term, all of these repetitive movements from a relatively stationary position for hours at a stretch can wreak havoc on your musculoskeletal health. It can lead to:

  • bad posture
  • headaches
  • joint pain

The World Health Organization and other leading medical institutions define these types of shoulder injuries, often in combination with neck and back strain, as musculoskeletal disorders.

Thankfully, Dr. Dustin Tannever of the Lakeshore Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Center in Chicago frequently treats people who suffer from shoulder pain associated with long hours of sitting. Tannever recommends these four easy and quick shoulder stretches that you can do at work. They will help alleviate shoulder pain.

Desk angels

  1. Sitting straight in your chair with perfect posture, raise your arms straight overhead as though you’re trying to touch the ceiling.
  2. Keeping your head and torso stationary, move your arms back and forth. The important part of this stretch is moving your arms behind your head.
  3. You should feel some pulling in your midback, which helps to unfold and extend your spine.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder rolls

  1. Keep your back straight and your chin tucked in.
  2. Roll your shoulders forward, up, back, and down in a circular motion.
  3. Repeat 10 times, then reverse.

Upper trapezius stretch

  1. Sitting with your back straight, tilt your head sideways toward your shoulder.
  2. For a larger stretch, extend your arm on the same side to provide a gentle pull.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat twice on each side.

Armpit stretch

This stretch will make it look like you’re trying to smell your own armpit, so perhaps you should perform this one when you’re sure no one is looking.

  1. Sit with your back straight.
  2. Rotate your head sideways so that your nose is directly above your armpit.
  3. Hold your head with your hand and use it to gently push your nose closer to your armpit. Do not push to the point of discomfort.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat twice on each side.

In addition to these stretches, “active” sitting can keep your body in motion and prevent the pain that results from being sedentary. For example, lean back in your chair occasionally, swivel your seat from side to side, and stand up for a few moments at least once every hour.

As always, be careful when adding a new exercise to your daily routine. Should you continue to experience pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor.