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Tips for healthy shoulders you shouldn't shrug off

Whether it's sitting at a computer all day, chasing kids around or swinging a hammer, you may not realize how much you use your shoulders until you find yourself with an achy or injured joint. Here are some things to do—or avoid doing—to maintain healthy, pain-free shoulders. 

Protect your shoulders at work

  • Get an ergonomic assessment ensure your work space fits you properly.
  • When doing heavy lifting, keep your elbow and arm close to the body—and grab a co-worker to help.
  • Pay attention to workplace hazards that may put your body in harm's way.
  • If you can, organize your work space so you're working at waist to chest height.
  • Avoid highly repetitive tasks that use the upper body, and stay away from overhead lifting.
    Be aware of slippery or hazardous conditions such as ice, wet floors and liquid spills.

Shoulder safeguards in daily life

  • Break up heavy chores into smaller jobs over a couple of days instead of doing it all at once. Ask for help if something is heavy.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle—at the very least, keep moving periodically throughout the day.
  • Get a yearly physical and properly treat conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues and rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect shoulder health.
  • Don't smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. These not only increase your risk for cancer and other illness, but can affect overall orthopedic and shoulder health.
  • Don't be a hero! If your kid's baseball team needs someone to throw batting practice and you haven't thrown a baseball for 20 years, it might be a good idea to think twice about going out there.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you get shoulder pain. When should you see a specialist?

  • If you have persistent pain in the shoulder that doesn't go away after a week or two
  • If you are experiencing pain and stiffness that stops you from getting your hand over your head
  • You have fallen on your shoulder which causes an increase in shoulder pain or decrease in function
  • If you are unable to fall asleep at night because of shoulder pain for weeks or months at a time


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