Experiencing Neck And Shoulder Pain At The Computer? You May Have Mouse Shoulder!

Mouse Shoulder

Experiencing Neck And Shoulder Pain At The Computer? You May Have Mouse Shoulder!

When sitting at the computer, the common setup is to have the keyboard, then the mouse beside it.  Take a look at how the arm must reach forward and out to the side to control the mouse. The shoulder blade is pulled forward and even though it seems as if there is no effort in keeping this position, muscles are working hard to keep the shoulder blade and arm in place.

What Is Mouse Shoulder

Muscles at the back of the shoulders such as the rhomboids, trapezius, rotator cuff, and deltoids are stretched out while muscles at the front of the shoulder such as the biceps, pecs, and anterior deltoids are in a shortened position. 

Regardless of the muscle is in a lengthened or shortened position, they all need to be contracted at a small degree to maintain the position, to use a mouse, and of course to counter gravity. If held for short periods of time there would be no problems, but having all these muscles contracted in the same position for 6-8 hours?? Of course, we will have problems! Try holding anything for 6-8 hours and we will get issues!

Most people get mouse shoulder pain in the areas around the shoulder blade and shoulder area. Things would feel tight, achy, sore, some people describe a burning pain in those areas, and occasionally may complain of numbness and tingling down the arm.

What Are Some Modifications For Your Desk?

The first thing you need to do is to stop or modify the aggravating activity, which is to change the body position. Some things to think about are:

1. Correcting your mouse position! The main thing is you want the mouse close to the body and your elbow needs to be supported to get rid of mouse shoulder. There are keyboards that don’t have number pads attached so that the keyboard is smaller allowing you to bring the mouse closer. If you still need a number pad, you can attach that separately. There are also mini keyboards with all the keys included, just in a smaller format so it leaves space for the mouse beside it. 

Mouse Position

2. Using a chair with armrests. If you don’t have room for armrests, there are armrests that can attach to your desk so you can rest your forearm.

Chair With Armrests

3. Experimenting with different types of mice if you are doing a lot of clicking with the mouse. Different mouse designs will have the hand in different positions that may be more comfortable for you.

Exercises Are Imperative!

Do some exercises to counter the lengthened muscles around the shoulder blade and shoulder, and stretch the shortened muscles in the front. These strengthening exercises have been shown to activate the muscles controlling the shoulder blade without overusing the frequently tight upper trapezius.


1. Sidelying Front Raises

Sidelying Front Raises

Lay on your side with a lightweight. Start with your arms at your sides, set the shoulder blades by pulling them back and down. Then, bring the arm forward and up toward the head. Keep the movement slow and controlled. Do 15- 20 reps, 2 sets.

2. Sidelying Shoulder External Rotation

Sidelying Shoulder External Rotation

Lay on your side again with a lightweight. Have a pillow between your elbow and the side of your body. Hold the weight at 90-degree elbow bend, then turn the arm outward. Repeat 15-20x, 2 sets.

3. Prone "T" Exercise

Prone T Exercise

Lay on your stomach with a lightweight in hand. Bring your arms out to the side in a “T” position. Set your shoulder blade, and point the thumb toward the ceiling. Slowly raise the arms up toward the ceiling. Repeat 15-20x, 2 sets.

4. Prone "I" Exercise

Prone I Exercise

Lay on your stomach with weights beside your body. Set the shoulder blades, then lift the weights up off the floor. Repeat 15-20x, 2 sets.


1. Pec Stretch

Pec Stretch
Repeat Pec Stretch

Stand in a doorway. Start with the elbow bent at 90 degrees and lean the elbow at the side of the doorway. Lean forward into the doorway and feel a stretch at the front of the chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then change the angle where the arm is up high. This will get a different area of the pectoral muscle. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 2-3x.

2. Biceps Stretch

Biceps Stretch

Stand right beside a wall, and straighten out the elbow behind you. Rest the palm against the wall. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 2-3x.

Self Massage

Self Massage

The last thing you can do for yourself is some self-massage to take out trigger points that may have formed in the various muscles. Find a tennis ball or lacrosse ball and put the ball against the back of your shoulder blade and a wall.

Roll around and find a painful spot, then hold until the pain subsides.  Just keep rolling around the shoulder blade, and the space between the shoulder blade and spine and find as many tender points as you can following this procedure.

Try these exercises and workstation modifications for 4 weeks and see how your pain improves. If you are still having issues, contact one of our Burnaby physiotherapists. We can make a more individualized plan of action and treatment plan to help get rid of your mouse shoulder pain.

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