How do I figure out how I'm sitting wrong?

I’m a programmer. I sit in front of the computer all day, and sometimes into the evening.

Lately - say, the last 4-5 months, I’ve been having some horrible pains in my right shoulder, right under my shoulder blade. It comes and goes, and lately it’s been coming more than going. It hurts enough that I’ve been taking a lot of ibuprofin.

I’m pretty sure it has something to do with computer use. It especially hurts when I extend my arm to use my mouse.

I’m thinking it has something to do with how I’m sitting, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to fix it. I have a super adjustable ergonomic chair, and I’ve adjust it up and down and back and forth. I’ve tried sitting closer to my desk, and farther away.

So far, the only thing that seems to help is to not use the mouse. Any position I’m in where I can manipulate the mouse hurts. Unfortunately, that’s not very practical; I have to mouse in order to work.

Soo… how do I figure this out? I’m willing to spend money, buy a new desk, whatever it takes. I’ve tried stretching, and I got a massage last week. Nothing seems to help. I’m sick of living on ibuprofin. Help!

I used to have these pains. At one point the pain in my right arm was so bad that I had to start using the mouse with my left hand.

No cure seemed to work. So I started going to the gym and did weight training three days a week. The pain went away after about 2 weeks.

It’s not in my arm, it’s more sort of mid-back, under my right shoulder blade.

But interesting solution. I have a bunch of free weights, maybe I’ll try to target my shoulder/arm and see if building some muscle helps.

I can also get this pain if I’m not supporting my elbow while mousing. One way to get around this if using a small desk or chair with no arms is to put the mouse pad directly in front of you and place your arm kind of angled towards the center of your body (if that makes sense). The more of my arm I can rest on the desk, the less of this pain I have.

Stretching the body a few times a week also helps (yoga etc).

Another possibility is to get a track wheel mouse, which doesn’t require a flat expanse of desk surface to use so you can attach it anywhere. You might be able to stick it in position you don’t have to reach as far for.

Do any of those non-traditional chairs come close to living up to their marketing hype? I remember back in the eighties or so these kneeling-like contraptions were hailed as miracles, but I haven’t seen one in ages.

I get those all the time.

Beware - one PT I was seeing (for something else entirely) told me that’s where Carpal Tunnel actually starts. So this is something you want to get figured out. The other guy I know that gets knots in the same place, it’s from drywall repair and painting (lots of repetitive motion), so I think there’s some plausibility to this.

For me, a lot of the cause is sitting with my shoulders too high. It’s partly because I have a lot of trouble getting correct chair/desk heights, partly it’s just bad habits (I tend to keep my back/shoulders/neck very tense and carry my shoulders too high.)

Sit in your chair as you normally would to work. Are your arms “neutral”, i.e., forearms parallel to the floor? If not, try adjusting your position.

Are your shoulders dropped and relaxed or scrunched up? If the latter, that’s a lot of the problem right there. Chair/desk position can affect this; if your keyboard/mouse is too high, you’ll tend to raise your shoulders to compensate.

How long are you trying different chair settings? IME, once you’ve got a knot there, it will take more than a day or two of a new position to get rid of it.

ETA: I’d recommend seeing a Physical Therapist. They’re really good at this stuff; it’s their job!

I am supporting my elbow. My desk/chair combo allows a lot of flexibility. I’ve tried everything I can think of, and have consulted various web sites that talk about correct mousing position.

It seems to be the very act of holding my arm at a slight angle to my body that makes it hurt. I don’t know how to get around that; my keyboard is directly in front of my body, and using it generally doesn’t hurt. My mouse is directly to the right of my keyboard. Pivoting my arm from the shoulder to put my hand on the mouse hurts.

Can you post a side view of your normal seated posture?

That’s a common site for referred pain from the scalenes- the little stringy muscles in your neck. Try moving your monitor lower or your chair higher and see if that helps. That link has some self-massage tips for the scalenes, as well - just be sure to work on only one side at a time so you don’t inadvertently pinch off both your carotid arteries!

This is really hard to explain in words, normally I can just go…like…this…with my head, and show you! But most people sitting in front of a computer for long periods find themselves jutting their chins forward and tilting them up a little bit, whether or not their backs are hunched over. I found a couple of pictures that are close, but not quite what I’m talking about, hereand here. I’d expect the posture in those pictures to cause aching and stiffness in the neck and shoulders directly, because they’re hunched over, but if you maintain that HEAD position, but straighten your spine, you’ll end up with pain under the scapula and down your mousing arm.

It helps me to raise my chair so that my mouse arm stays low. This is inconvenient, because I have short legs and I’m probably ruining my knees by sitting cross-legged all the time, but I make a living with my mouse arm, not my knees.

I have some suggestions:

First, I think that the head movement he(?)'s talking about is what I call a chin tuck. You know those rigid postures that soldiers of some countries take that make them look like they all have double chins? If you sit upright and very straight, and try to move your whole head - especially your chin - straight backwards keeping the rest of your body still, that’s about it. When you get it right, and hold it for about 10 seconds, you may feel a little pop (or several), and when you relax, you are likely to find the pain reduced. Doing several reps, once you get the hang of it, is Very Good for getting the stiffness out of your neck muscles. There are variations on it that also help to stretch shoulder muscles. If you want more info on it, send me a message (if you do email, please put SDMB in the subject, so I know it’s not spam).

Second, have you ever tried to mouse with your left hand? Or right, if you’re a leftie. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel - especially in my right hand/arm - about 18 years ago. I got a keyboard wrist rest made of very soft foam rubber, which helped quite a bit. Not sure where you’d find one now, and they aren’t very good with the so-called ergonomic keyboards, which are always crooked. I also tried a trackball, which didn’t help quite so much. So I decided that maybe I should see whether I could learn to mouse with my left hand. It took some effort - and I’m still not quite as fast with my left hand as with my right, but the only circumstances in which I can even tell the difference in speed now is in some games (not nearly as important as being able to mouse accurately for your work, and I think you can manage that). :slight_smile:

I also agree about adjusting the position of your monitor. My monitor sets on top of one of those surge protectors that’s made to go under your monitor, with two big fat phone books on top of it. And I’ve been thinking about whether I should add another phone book, since I switched from a “square” monitor to the landscape style, to raise the monitor even higher. I still find myself bending forward, as illustrated in the links in the quote, for some things. That ain’t good for your back, or anything else. You need to be able to sit upright, with good posture.

I hate ta tellya, but I think you already know that sitting cross-legged is not good for your back. A friend uses one of those “chairs” where your weight is divided between your butt and your knees (no back, but the posture forces you to hold your body upright). I dunno where to find an illustration of one - maybe somebody else who knows the right name for them can help out? That should almost automatically keep your body in good posture, so long as the monitor is at the right height.

I can almost feel your pain; I’ve been very close to where you are. Good luck!

Ergonomic kneeling stool?

When you say sitting cross-legged is bad for you do you mean like this or this?

Footstool - I’ve got a 1930’s desk, which means I’ve had to adjust the screen (on top of a CD rack), tower (beside the desk, extension lead to the screen), seat (bloody expensive, but the only one that went this high) and get myself a footstool. I still have to get up and do other stuff periodically to beat the occasional aches.

I don’t know which **tygerbryght **meant, but both of those are bad for you for different reasons. The first because your knee and hip ligaments aren’t designed to hold that position for long; that sort of cross-legged will put extra wear and tear on them, and the second because it can cut off blood flow from the lower leg and cause varicose veins and, worst case scenario, deep vein thrombosis.

Knees: proof positive that there is no Intelligent Design. :wink:

You may have an impinged nerve as well as muscle pain - or else you might get one from the tenseness of the scalenes, as above. I went through two years of recovery from something that started out as carpal tunnel but turned into some different nerve issues. I ended up using a “foot mouse” for clicking for a while, since it was mostly clicking that sent pain shooting up my arm. Switching to the left hand just made that arm and shoulder hurt. I now use a trackball, and that’s much better. The truth is, it just took time to heal, and if you don’t catch it now, it’s just going to get worse.

I also agree about the weight training - that, PT and massage helped me a lot.

Good luck, and start taking frequent breaks, at least…

I don’t know what that little protrusion just below the seat on that thing is supposed to be for, but “back pain” wasn’t the first thing I thought that would cure.

I’ve gone to see my doctor for less. Why not go to a chiropractor? He/she can go over everything with you and sort out the problem. Sometimes trying to figure it out on your own can make it worse or only temporarily alleviate a bigger issue.

My massage therapist very guardedly recommended a chiropractor. In general, I’m not a big chiropractor fan, but I may take him up on this.

As for doctors - if I could find one that I thought could help, I’d go in a second. Unfortunately I’m self-employed, which means I have health insurance that only kicks in if I’ve got cancer or something. I will end up going to a doctor if I can’t figure this out myself, but I’m figuring it’ll be several hundred dollars before I find someone who can actually help with this, so I’m not all that anxious to give up on trying things myself.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions - I have moved around my monitor so I’m looking more directly at it, instead of down, and that seems to help. It’ll be a few days before I know for sure though.

I have similar pain in my left shoulder, even though I mouse with the right. It comes and goes a bit and doesn’t sounds quite as bad as what you’re getting. The chiropractor helped me more than the PT, but I’d recommend checking with both. In my case, the muscles are tensing because the bones are stuck, thus the chiropractor gets them unstuck and it helps. If your pain is purely muscular, the PT should be able to help.

I’ve been using a thumbball for years and it definitely helped with carpal tunnel and elbow pain.

Good luck. I definitely feel your pain.