Don't lean on me
May 1, 2012 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Leaning on my elbow is causing my shoulder much grief. And yet I keep doing it! How do I stop?

Over the last month or so, I've repeatedly suffered from horrible pains in my left shoulder. If they get really bad, my neck and left arm get drawn into the game as well. I've noticed that the pain gets worse when I lean sideways onto my left elbow when sitting at my desk at work. I suspect that the leaning is at least a contributory factor to, and may even be the main cause of, my shoulder problems. But the habit's proving very, very difficult to break. I tend to slump as it is, and I can't seem to sit straight in a chair whatever I do. The chair, by the way, is a crappy office thingy I only got because another office was being cleared out (the chair I had before that was broken). I am unlikely to get a better one. What can I do to stop side-slouching onto my elbow?
posted by Acheman to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
Three things: first, get a new chair. If your office won't supply one (and you should go to HR and report that your chair is causing a work-related injury, which may spur things along if they fear a worker's comp claim), get your own. You only get one body, and a new chair may be the cheapest way to fix it. Second, consider putting something either on the spot on your desk where you normally rest your elbow or on your elbow itself as a reminder not to lean on it. Put a paperweight on your desk in your usual elbow spot. Wear a brace of some sort on your elbow. Anything that will snap you out of the absentminded habit any time you try to repeat that motion by physically stopping you and making you think about what you're doing. Finally, consider doing some physical exercise designed to support your posture and strengthen your body. Yoga and pilates are great for this, but even just gentle stretching and planks would probably help you with your posture and sitting position. Good luck!
posted by decathecting at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did this all the time too (and gave myself a giant swollen elbow) until I switched to a seat that didn't allow me to slouch unless I wanted to fall off. I ended up with a Swopper because it's height adjustable but try a big yoga ball first as an inexpensive alternative. I hated active sitting at first, mostly because I'm rather sessile by nature, but got used to it within a week and loved it by the end of the second week.
posted by jamaro at 12:06 PM on May 1, 2012

You need to immediately change how you sit and how you work. Thanks to sitting and working at a computer - and doing exactly what you describe - I have sore shoulders, and it even hurts to throw a baseball or skip stones.

On top of that, I've developed pretty severe carpal tunnel syndrome, so severe, in fact, that the muscles on my left hand and forearm started to atrophy.

I've managed to reverse carpal tunnel syndrome by using a "standing desk". I propped up my monitor and keyboard at the appropriate height, and I stand and work for most of the day.

My shoulder pain has diminished, and I have regained feeling (and fine motor skills) in my left hand.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2012

Have you had an ergonomic assessment? Most decent-size companies will do this on request - talk to HR. If your company can't or won't, there are plenty of online guides - the idea is to make sure your chair, desk, keyboard, and monitor are all at the right height for you. If one or more of them are way off, your office needs to fix it (or they may very well end up with a workman's comp claim.) I'm betting something is pretty far off, and you're slumping to try to compensate. (Most likely, your monitor is not eye-level, but it could be a couple things.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2012

Are you at all a yoga person? If so, practice handstand and forearm stand, with good alignment. It will resolve the problem.

In any case, you need to figure out one thing: when leaning on elbow, do you hunch up that same shoulder? If so, the trouble's not the leaning, it's the hunching up. You need to develop the habit of keeping your shoulders level in spite of load. Otherwise the problems will keep coming. Shoulders down, and back, military-style (you don't need to forcefully pin your shoulder blades together, but do roll them in that direction), especially when loading the shoulders (e.g. the elbow thing or carrying bags). That habit will serve you well.
posted by Quisp Lover at 4:28 PM on May 1, 2012

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