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Shoulder pain from using a mouse

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 5 minutes read

Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours each day isn’t the best for your health yet for many of us, it’s unavoidable due to our jobs. Whether you're working in an office or working remotely, you’re likely in front of a computer screen for close to 8 hours which can lead to all sorts of aches and pains.

Work-related shoulder pain is affecting people more and more frequently today and one of the most common ailments is shoulder pain from using a mouse, known as mouse shoulder.

In this article, we’ll cover the symptoms of mouse shoulder, what can cause it, ways to treat this type of joint pain and how you can prevent it from happening.

What is mouse shoulder?

A common issue that people experience from using a computer mouse for an extended period with poor posture or lack of support is mouse shoulder. It’s a form of a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) which is due to overusing muscles or straining them by doing the same actions.

Mouse shoulder often feels like a deep aching or burning sensation in your shoulder and neck on the side you have been using a mouse.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is another ailment brought on by your mouse, causing pain in your wrist and hand.

What causes mouse shoulder?

Using a mouse with your arm held away from the body causes muscles in your shoulder to contract. Moving your wrist requires your hand and fingers to do small focused movements; however, they can tire after doing this repeated movement for an extended time. This leads to larger muscles in your shoulders compensating to move your mouse which can lead to tightness.

The altered posture of your shoulder girdle can result in pain in your shoulder, neck and upper back. Being in this position for several hours without allowing your body time to relax is one of the main causes of mouse shoulder. Mouse shoulder can take some time to show up, however once developed, it can take less than an hour of computer time to hit you and ruin your day.

What are the symptoms of mouse shoulder?

Mouse shoulder has different symptoms. You may notice some or all of them if you are dealing with this issue. The symptoms of mouse shoulder are:

  • Feeling pain in your shoulder while using a computer mouse
  • Pain extending through your whole arm and down to your hand
  • Tightness in your upper back and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Hand feeling weak
  • Numbness or tingling in your hand

How to sleep with mouse shoulder?

Shoulder pain can easily disrupt your sleeping routine. It can result in you lying awake for hours and feeling tired the next day. If you have mouse shoulder, you can try sleeping in these positions to avoid making the pain worse.

  • Sleeping on your back can help maintain shoulder alignment.
  • If you’re a side sleeper and this is the only way you can sleep, try to sleep on the opposite side to your sore shoulder. You can also place a small pillow or rolled up towel under the affected arm.

How to prevent mouse shoulder

Mouse shoulder can be very uncomfortable and a frustrating ailment to deal with. Fortunately there are a few different things you can do to prevent it. Here are some of our recommendations that should help you avoid getting mouse shoulder.

Have an ergonomic workspace

Setting up an ergonomic workspace is one of the most effective ways to prevent mouse shoulder. This involves:

  • Using an ergonomic mouse is one of the most effective ways to prevent mouse shoulder. They are designed to reduce the strain on the muscles in your shoulder and arm. An ergonomic mouse will fit the natural shape of your hand which helps to keep your wrist in a neutral position, reducing the risk of strain and injury.
  • Having a comfortable chair: this is crucial to a good ergonomic setup. Your chair should be at a suitable height for you where your feet can be placed flat on the ground with a 90 degree bend in the knees.
  • Set your computer screen to the correct height: the top of the screen should be level with your eyes and about 50-100 cm (2-3 feet) away from you so you’re not too close or too far.

Other ways to prevent mouse shoulder

You can also avoid shoulder pain from your computer mouse by:

  • Taking regular breaks: you should have a 5-10 minute break from sitting in front of your computer every 50-60 minutes. Getting up to stretch and move around helps loosen the muscles in your shoulder and arm as they can tighten when they are stuck in one position for too long.
  • Having good posture: having an ergonomic workspace helps with this but you also need to make sure you’re sitting correctly when using a computer. Avoid slouching in your chair or leaning forward. These bad habits can be easy to fall into without even thinking, especially when you’ve been sitting for a while which is why taking regular breaks are important to help you reset.
  • Having your mouse closer to you: keep your mouse close to you so you’re not overstretching to use it.
  • Not gripping your mouse too hard: your mouse isn’t going to scurry away from you so you don’t need to hold it too intensely. Having a relaxed grip will not impact your control of the mouse and will help reduce muscle strain.
  • Doing some exercises: shoulder rolls are great for stretching your shoulder muscles and can be done at any time of the day but are ideal during your breaks you should be taking.
  • Having your wrist in a neutral position: your hand should be inline with your wrist. You’re in a flexed position when your palm is down while an extended position is having your palms up.

When should I see my doctor?

If you’re dealing with shoulder pain when using a mouse or shortly afterwards, there is a good chance you have mouse shoulder. You can try our suggestions in this article to see if that helps treat your shoulder pain.

If it doesn’t go away or you’ve tried our advice and you’re still getting shoulder pain using a mouse, you should see your doctor. They will be able to help you find the underlying cause of the pain which could be caused by a condition like arthritis or a pinched nerve and suggest an appropriate treatment plan for it.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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