I have had a run of people coming in complaining of shoulder pain. This is the sort of pain that sits just below your neck and stretches out across the top of your shoulders, usually out on your dominant arm side but it can be on both shoulders.
The pain will often be worse after working, particularly on a laptop, or whilst driving or reading. It also tends to be worse after the working week and less grim on the weekend, though this will depend on what you are doing. Additionally, it may be associated with an ill-defined, dull or burning ache or pain running down your arm, though this usually doesn’t make it as far as your hands.
This is a really common problem.
What causes this shoulder pain?
This is shoulder pain associated with a trigger point in the upper part of your trapezius muscle. We have explained what a trigger point is before so I don’t need to get into why these occur and what you can do with them.
But why after work and whilst driving?
This is all because this trapezius muscle, and other deeper muscles of your neck, are used to hold your head up whist you are peering into the computer or staring over your steering wheel. Again, we have touched on this anterior head carriage stuff before as it is so important.
However, why the dominant arm?
Your dominant arm is your stronger arm – it’s the one you’d use to screw a screw in to a wall, and as a result has a bit more muscle bulk in it. This means that it weighs more than your non-dominant arm. Over your lifetime, it will pull your dominant arm shoulder lower. So, no one should have level shoulders – they are just wrong. This will then stretch your trapezius muscle on the dominant arm side. This muscle, and a few deeper muscles of the neck will be working like mad to hold your head up once it comes forward of the centre of gravity. This stress and the added stress of the muscle being tighter anyway because your arm is lower is why we expect to see it on your dominant arm side.
So, a muscle that is designed for a short, sharp, contraction lasting only seconds is being made to do a continuous contraction lasting, let’s say, 8 hours and you wonder why it is going wrong. This is also why it hurts as the day progresses and gets worse as the week progresses. This is all because you are asking more and more of it and it is just not deigned or built to cope with this loading.
What can you do?
- Sort out your work posture as much as you can. This will help with your shoulder pain but is rarely THE answer. You’ll probably never be able to fully remove the aggravating factor. You will have to peer into the excel spreadsheet and you will have to use your laptop on the train.
- Stretch the hell out of them. This will work. You’ll need to be ‘committed’ to this for a week or so and then settle, once you are on the sun lit uplands, into a far more gentle regime of stretching. This will have to be done for ever or until you reduce the aggravating factor to nothing.
- If this doesn’t work, or you want fast results, then bring it in to us and let us have a look for you. We are pretty good at sorting these things out.