Caused by repetitive stress inflicted on the shoulder joint while using a computer mouse, Mouse Shoulders is a specific type of tendonitis. Although this affliction has earned itself a cute name, its symptoms are anything but. Mouse Shoulders cause muscle tension, nerve pain and stiffness in and around the shoulder joint of the user's dominant (mouse) hand. These symptoms can radiate from the shoulder, causing neck pain and headaches, too.
Mouse Shoulders occur as a result of working for extended periods of time at a computer (desktop or laptop, sitting or standing) with poor posture. Working with poor posture puts abnormal amounts of stress on certain muscles, tendons and joints, while allowing others to relax and weaken and this abnormal posture puts stress on the soft tissues and joints in the arm, causing damage and painful symptoms.
Specifically, Mouse Shoulders happen when the computer mouse you’re working with is located in a position which forces your shoulder to support your arm in an uncomfortable or extended position for prolonged periods. This might mean your computer mouse is too far away directly or to the left or right of your body or that your arm has no support while you use your computer mouse.
How to Work Safely with a Mouse
Rule #1: Bring lots of cheese. Just kidding. Unless, you use blocks of cheese to support your arm while working on your computer, then you can leave it in the refrigerator. To prevent Mouse Shoulders, you need to arrange your workstation ergonomically, so that it supports proper posture. Regardless of your type of workstation and computer, your mouse should be positioned:
- directly in front of your dominant hand
- at hand-level with your elbow bent at a comfortable 90-degrees
- close enough to your body that your arm can hang comfortably in line with your body
You should also have a chair with an armrest to support your arm's weight, removing the stress from the muscles in and around your shoulder joint.
Stretch, Massage, Sleep and Repeat for Relief
Shoulders Stretches - Try an active stretch to loosen your back and shoulder. Lie on your stomach and slowly lift your head and legs while reaching your arms and legs upwards. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat three times.
DIY Massage - Place left hand on right shoulder and squeeze the muscle. Rotate your shoulders in backwards motions, until you no longer feel grinding in the joint. Repeat on the opposite side.
Sleep Position – If you have a Mouse Shoulder, avoid sleeping on your stomach or back. Instead, sleep on the uninjured shoulder with a pillow between your knees, one to support the neck and another in front of you to support your upper arm.
Finally Taming Your Mouse Shoulder
If your job requires you to work at a computer for any length of time, you're at risk of developing a Mouse Shoulder. But don't worry. As long as you arrange your workstation to minimize stress on the joints of your dominant side and you allow yourself a break to stretch your muscles, you should be able to avoid developing Mouse Shoulder. With that, there will be no more “squeaking” and you can enjoy the cheese plate at your favorite happy hour!