Ask A Pro


I have had ongoing shoulder pain for several months. Icing, ibuprofen, and shoulder exercises have helped some, but my pain is still there. Sometimes it’s even at its worst when I work at the computer. What am I missing?


Assuming you don’t have any structural problems or tendon tears, the missing link here may be your posture. The rotator cuff tendons are often a source of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that work together to lift and rotate the arm, as well as stabilize the shoulder joint in its socket. These tendons sit under an archway in the shoulder blade called the acromion. Factors such as poor posture and improper body mechanics can irritate these tendons. Here’s why: If you sit in a slumped position where the spine is rounded, it causes the shoulder blade to move downward which pinches those rotator cuff tendons under the acromion. This also decreases the blood circulation to the muscles, which over time, can cause further tissue damage. Conversely, if you sit in correct posture with your shoulders back, the shoulder joint is more open which allows the space under the acromion to increase and adequate blood flow to occur.

Developing postural awareness and strength is crucial in order to protect the rotator cuff tendons. To achieve optimal sitting posture at the desk, try these steps:

  1. Engage your core and abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in towards the spine,
  2. Lift your sternum (breastbone) up and forward,
  3. Set your shoulder blades down and back, and
  4. Gently move your head back so it is sitting right over your shoulders rather than in front of them.

Since your problems seem to occur at the computer, you want to make sure your work station is set up correctly so that IT doesn’t cause you to slump. Also, consider seeing your physical therapist so that they can more thoroughly evaluate your posture, movement patterns, flexibility, and strength in order to get to the bottom of your shoulder pain!
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Corvallis • Phone (541) 752-0545