Pain Free Working

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain Through Desk Exercises

Many people spend hours seated at their desks, typing away on computers. Spending long periods hunched over a desk can lead to an increase in shoulder pain and discomfort. Fret not, for there are ways to relieve the pain in your shoulder through several practices and exercises.

What Is the Main Cause of Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder is considered the most movable joint in the body but not a lot are aware that it’s composed of three bones and two joints. The shoulder joint contains three bones: the humerus or the upper part of the arm bone, the scapula or the shoulder blade, and the clavicle or the collarbone.

Within the shoulder are two joints that help it move, namely the acromioclavicular joint, where the shoulder blade and the collarbone meet, and the glenohumeral joint, where the rounded top of the upper arm bone fits into the shoulder blade.

Each shoulder is held in place by a group of four muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff tendons that cover and protect the humerus. These tendons are the ones that let you raise or move your arm. The shoulder also contains several parts, namely the acromion (a bone at the top, outer edge of the shoulder blade), bursa (a fluid-filled sac within the join), coracoid (a bone that extends from the blade and attaches muscles), labrum (cartilage that stabilizes the joint socket.)

When your shoulder hurts, it’s possible that any of these tendons and muscles are inflamed. Shoulder pain is a common complaint among individuals who spend long hours at a desk or in front of a computer. The primary cause of this discomfort is poor posture. When sitting for extended periods, people often slouch or hunch their shoulders, which places undue stress on the shoulder tendons and muscles. 

This poor shoulder posture can lead to muscle imbalances, where some muscles become overly tight while others weaken, contributing to pain and discomfort. Additionally, repetitive motions such as typing or using a mouse can strain the shoulder tendons and muscles, leading to inflammation and pain.

A condition called “frozen shoulder” can also be the cause of pain. This condition limits how much your joint will move. Abnormal bands of tissue build up in the joint and keep your shoulder from moving freely. 

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, can also cause pain in the shoulder. Small, smooth pieces of bone rub up against and wear the rotator cuff, keeping your shoulder from moving the way it should.

Major injuries such as shoulder dislocation or separation can cause severe pain. A separated shoulder or a dislocated one needs immediate emergency medical help as these are conditions that cannot be treated using pain relievers or ice packs alone.

What Are Other Causes of Shoulder Pain?

Aside from poor posture, there are other conditions that can cause shoulder pain. Sometimes, this can be due to a problem in the other area of the body, such as the neck or lungs. Called referred pain, this is when you experience shoulder pain even if there’s nothing wrong with it. It can be painful at rest, or there is no worsening pain when moving the shoulder.

Arthritis is also a common cause of shoulder pain. This is when the cartilage starts to break down and can’t keep the bone from rubbing against other bones anymore, causing pain. 

A possible heart attack can also cause shoulder pain. If you experience chest pain, sudden swelling, sudden shoulder pain, difficulty breathing, pain radiating to the jaw, or tightness in the chest, you should call emergency services immediately as this is a life-threatening condition.

What Makes Shoulder Pain Go Away?

Relieving shoulder pain often involves a combination of improving posture, incorporating regular movement, and performing targeted exercises. Correcting posture by ensuring that your workstation is ergonomically optimized is crucial. This includes adjusting your chair, desk, and monitor to promote a neutral spine alignment. 

Regular breaks to stretch and move can help alleviate muscle tension. Specific desk exercises, such as shoulder shrugs, neck stretches, and arm circles, can strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve flexibility. Applying ice or heat to the affected area, as well as taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine can also help reduce pain and inflammation.

What Is the Fastest Way to Cure Shoulder Pain?

A painful shoulder is common in adults, especially those who do desk work or lift heavy things. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.


Using a sling can keep the shoulder from moving, helping in relieving shoulder pain. However, you shouldn’t use a sling for too long as it can cause other complications like muscle weakness.

OTC Pain Relievers

For mild shoulder pain, medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow directions as indicated and if they don’t relieve the pain, speak with your doctor.


Incorporating simple desk exercises into your daily routine can effectively relieve shoulder pain and prevent future discomfort. You can do these exercises with a physical therapist to ensure that you’re taking the correct steps to reduce the pain in your shoulders. Here are the ones that you can try:

Shoulder Shrugs

Sit or stand with your back straight. Next, slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly release. Repeat 10 times.

Neck Stretches

Sit upright with your back straight. Then, gently tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, feeling the stretch on the left side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Blade Set

Pinch the shoulders up as high as possible and hold for 3 seconds, trying to touch your shoulders to your ears like a “shrug.” Then, push the shoulders down away from your ears and hold for more than 3 seconds. Try to work your way up to 20.

Next, pinch your shoulder blades toward each other and the center of your spine. Hold this position for 3 seconds when you reach your maximum pinch. Try to do this 20 times.

Elbow Press

Do this exercise while sitting in a chair. Push your elbows directly into the armrests to contract all the muscles around your shoulders. Hold for 3 seconds and try to repeat 10 to 20 times.

Core Engagement

While this exercise does not involve the shoulders directly, a strong core can help to ensure proper functioning of the shoulders and arms. To do this, pull your belly button toward your spine as if you’re exhaling deeply. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat. Perform 20 times.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are two warning signs of rotator cuff tears?

Final Note

Shoulder pain can be a very troubling condition but there are ways to relieve it. Incorporating desk exercises, sitting properly, taking medication, applying an ice pack, and implementing ergonomic adjustments can help reduce pain and enhance your overall well-being. 

If you don’t know the cause of the pain in your shoulders, it’s best to seek a doctor who can perform a physical exam and recommend imaging tests or X-rays to pinpoint the cause of your pain.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.