Why Shoulder Pain Inflicts Desk Workers

There’s a large proportion of desk workers that suffer from shoulder pain. It’s rather strange, especially when you consider most shoulder injuries are caused by sports or exercise. So, why are relatively inactive people suffering from shoulder issues? 

It’s a posture problem

Most of the time, shoulder pain for desk workers stems from posture problems. Sitting at a desk all day will do the following things to your body: 

  • It tightens your chest muscles
  • It rounds your upper back

Obviously, it does more than this, but these are the two problems specific to this topic. When these two things happen, it rounds your shoulders and brings them forward. The tightness from your chest muscles also drags your shoulders into internal rotation. 

Consequently, you can end up with shoulder impingement issues as tendons and ligaments are getting pinched in the shoulder joint. There’s less space there because the shoulders are rounded and internally rotated because of your poor posture at your desk. 

Scapula winging

This is technically a posture issue, but it’s a separate concern that also stems from working at a desk. The simple definition of scapula winging is that your scapula comes away from its natural place on your back. Instead of lying flat on your back and gliding up and down, it sticks out to the side. 

When your scapulae are out of position, your shoulder becomes unstable. Therefore, you are likely to suffer from ongoing shoulder pain and an increased risk of injuries. 

Manage shoulder pain at work

Well, the ultimate solution is to take a break from work, but this isn’t always possible. Still, having regular breaks where you stand up and stretch can really help. Focus on stretching out your chest muscles and externally rotating your shoulders. Also, try to arch your upper back, forcing your upper spine into extension and preventing further rounding. 

Secondly, you could apply KT tape to your shoulder area. This gives it more support and can relieve a lot of pressure in the area, soothing the ongoing pain. It takes a while to learn how to tape a shoulder with KT tape, but once you get the hang of it it is easy to repeat. The benefit of this is that it can be worn under your work clothes while you sit at your desk. 

Lastly, you need to work on some exercises to correct many of your shoulder problems. Most of these will revolve around your upper back muscles and your external shoulder rotators. The upper back muscles – like your mid and lower traps – will need to be trained to be strong enough to pull your shoulders back to their rightful position.

Likewise, training your shoulder’s external rotation muscles can prevent internal rotation. It’s a good idea to visit a specialist so they can assess your problem and provide specific exercises that will help. 


Constantly sitting at a desk is leading to shoulder pain for many people in the world today. This coincides with back and neck pain, so it is very important to seek treatment as soon as you can. Otherwise, these issues will plague you for the rest of your life and could lead to more serious problems when you’re older.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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