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Could Your Lifestyle Be Making Your Shoulder Pain Worse?

So far in this series, we’ve covered neck pain, headaches, and even started to touch on shoulder pain. I just want to quickly recap what we’ve looked at so far. We’ve looked at why everyday activities can cause neck pain and what you can do to change that. Then we looked at how sleeping can affect both neck and shoulder pain, which can be eased by changing pillows or trying different sleeping positions that are comfortable and supportive.

We then switched gears to look at headaches and how most people think that they can be caused by something they’ve eaten. However, as discussed, it most commonly comes down to neck and shoulder tension that causes headaches. But the good news is you can always try different things like relaxing in a warm bath to help ease the tension or talking to a member of our team.

 And finally, most recently we began to talk about shoulder pain. I hope you have tried to incorporate stretching/yoga into your morning and evening routine or at least have given the simple stretches at your desk a shot to help ease any aches and pains!

We will continue this week with more shoulder pain topics and how your lifestyle can be the root of the problem! To begin, I understand just how difficult it can be to analyze your own lifestyle and what could potentially be causing you shoulder pain. I also know majority of us have a daily routine that becomes second nature such as how you get ready for work, doing daily chores, or participating in that weekly game of golf. However, do you pay attention to how your body moves when doing these activities? If I had to guess, you probably don’t and that’s completely normal. So, let’s go over some common activities that may be causing your shoulder pain and how to get some pain relief!

We touched on this last week and I can’t stress it enough, don’t forget to stretch! We put our bodies into stationary positions for hours at a time every time we sleep or sit at a desk for work so stretching can be a great way to ease into the day or help relax before bed. It also becomes extremely beneficial as we get older when our joints needs a little extra time to get “warmed-up”. So again, I will continue to encourage you to do a couple minutes of stretching each morning and/or evening to help alleviate any aches and pains!

Looking at your phone or tablet has to be one of the worst culprits for shoulder pain. While looking at your phone or tablet usually begins with neck pain it’s very common for the pain to spread into your shoulders. However, I understand these devices become extremely useful for work related tasks or more commonly, for leisure entertainment. But, I also know how easy it can be to spend prolonged periods of time looking down at a screen or holding the phone to your ear while talking which will eventually interrupt our body’s natural state. Since your head is facing down using these devices, it can result in poor posture and slouching. What most people don’t know is that your head is supposed to be in a position where your head is in line with your shoulders.

As soon as you start looking down, your body is more likely to feel a strain in the neck and shoulders. My advice on this would be to only use your phone for about 10-15 minutes at a time to avoid strain. As for other devices, there is a wide range of protective cases that can sometimes provide stands for tablets and e-readers. Perfect! My tip here would be to take advantage of the stand and use it, so that your eyes do the adjusting, not your head! This also goes for reading at night too. I understand that reading at night is sometimes a habit picked up as a child, which is great but our body usually pays the price if we have poor posture!

Another problem that can come from reading at night is actually from holding the book itself. It’s not something you really think about but holding a book can cause particular muscles to be tensed. Not only this, but your neck is also likely to be tensed to keep you upright while reading. Now, think of how long you read for. How many times do you say, “just one more chapter” before you finally drift off? I really love this habit so I would recommend to continue reading, but to only sit in the same position for up to 20 minutes.

 Finally, a great way of thinking about your shoulder pain throughout the day is to think about when it occurs. Is it when you tend to carry heavy shopping bags, when you sit at work or while you exercise? If you have an idea of when it occurs, then focus on making sure your head is straight and your ears are in line with your shoulders. This is the best tip that I know and if you apply it to as much of your daily routine as possible, you will start to notice a difference.

The author, Jennifer Penrose, is a Physical Therapist and owner of Penrose Physical Therapy. If you have any questions about neck and shoulder pain or headaches, you can call (360) 456-1444 or email


Jennifer Penrose

Penrose Physical Therapy

"Leading Experts Helping People Become More Active and Mobile, Reduce Stress and Achieve Longevity… So They Can Enjoy Great Health For Years to Come!"

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