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Shoulder Pain: Simple Exercises You Can Do From Your Desk

Lacey WA After discussing neck pain and headaches, lets tackle shoulder pain! Like headaches, I’m sure many of us have dealt with some form of shoulder pain whether it’s due to sports, gym exercises, or even simply sleeping in an unnatural position. However, shoulder pain is typically due to the accumulation of several factors such as carrying a heavy backpack/purse on the same shoulder every day and hours spent seated with poor posture while at work… it all adds up! So, let’s discuss the important of doing some simple exercises in the workplace and how it can help your shoulder pain.

I’d also like to make it clear that I’m focusing on the workplace environment because not many people realize how much time you spend working. For example, the average fulltime worker spends an average of 1,650 hours at work a year. That’s equivalent to 68 days or 9 weeks of day-in-day-out work! I am also aware that the pandemic shook things up for a lot of you whether it’s completely shifting to working from home or simply decreasing the time spent in your office. It also become abundantly clear over the past couple years that people were not able to set up the proper ergonomic workspace, likely leading to more neck and shoulder pain!

With that in mind, here’s a few of my tips that are handy to use to ease that shoulder pain. I’d highly recommend stretching/yoga before and after work to assist with easing aches and pains in your muscles. Yoga is ideal before and after work because you have likely just spent several hours sleeping in the same position and will likely continue to not move much while sitting and doing desk work. Also, the stretching will not only help ease aches and pain but will probably leave you feeling less anxious and stressed allowing you to fall asleep faster if you decide to stretch before bed!

Another tip, if possible, get some fresh air on your lunch break! This is something I keep telling my staff to do. Not only is a change of scenery good for the mind, but it also gets you up and moving! Even if it’s just a walk to a park bench, it’s better than nothing. If you happen to have an hour for your lunch break, then why not try and go for a brisk walk? This may help ease your muscles further of any pain. However, if you do decide to do this then I would recommend leaving your bag in the office. There is no need to add more pressure to your shoulders if it can be avoided. Also, while a walk during your lunch break is great, try and get up and move every hour while working. This can be as simple as taking restroom breaks or even quickly saying hello to a colleague (significant other, kids, pets if you work from home). Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be for very long, as long as you stand up and take a few steps!

Now, what if your shoulder pain still hasn’t eased during lunch, but the Yoga in the morning worked… Here are a few exercises that you can try from your desk. Desk Angels – Sounds sweet doesn’t it? Right, so here’s how you do them;

Desk Stretch: 1. Sitting up in your chair, raise your arms straight up, like you’re trying to touch the ceiling. 2. Now keep your body still, (it will be harder than you anticipate!) and move your arms together, back and forth. You’ll notice the stretch, pull in your mid back when you move your arms behind your head. 3. Now repeat this 5-10 times.

Shoulder Rolls: This one is probably the most common out of the exercises. 1. Keep your back straight and your chin tucked in. 2. Roll your shoulders forwards 10 times, and then repeat backwards.

“Armpit” Stretch: 1. Sit with your back straight and rotate your head sideways so that your nose is directly above your armpit. 2. Hold your head with your hand and gently use it to push your nose closer to your armpit. 3. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat twice on each side. Like I said before, it might be best to do this one when everyone has gone for lunch, so you’re on your own. (This one is probably the most difficult, in the sense that it’s difficult to feel the stretch. When you do though, you’ll know as it targets the muscle near your shoulder blade!)

So, quick summary! Now you know how long you actually spend at work and potentially in an office chair, it’s clear to see the importance of exercise in the workplace and as mentioned, houlder pain can often come from poor posture in the workplace. So remember – the hours you work build up and so does the pressure and pain in your shoulders! If you have or are about to retire, then these exercises can still be done at home and I would still recommend using these tips to ease any shoulder pain that you may have. So give these tips a try and start to feel the benefits quicker!

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 on (360) 456-1444 or email


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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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