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Shoulder Posture and Injury Prevention in the Workplace

ergonomics msdprevention Nov 15, 2021

CRE-MSD (2020) has noted that shoulder injuries have the longest recovery time compared to other body parts.

To prevent injuries of the shoulder it is important to know the correct and incorrect postures of the shoulders. Correct posture of the shoulders is the shoulders square and level, and they are relaxed and pulled back. We also want to know the incorrect postures of the shoulder so that we can avoid these postures, which are the shoulders rounded with the palms of the hands facing forward.

Some ways to minimize the risk of shoulder injuries when working include: 

  • Decrease repetition 
  • Limit overhead reaching  
  • Keep the load close to the body
  • Use both arms to distribute the load evenly 
  • Limit shrugging and rounding of the shoulders 

When reaching for objects we want to avoid horizontal reaches away from the body as much as possible, as this can cause excess strain on the shoulders and lead to injuries. However, if we do need to engage in this movement, we want to make sure that our shoulders are back and stable, and not rounded. Instead of reaching out to grab objects and straining our shoulders, we want to keep the load close to the body and at waist height.

For office environments, CRE-MSD (2019) suggests the following to prevent shoulder injuries:

  • Support the arms so that the shoulders are relaxed and not tense. This can be done by implementing:
    • Keyboard rest 
    • Armrests on chairs or workstations
    • Palm rests
  • Keep frequently used equipment within arms distance of your body to reduce long reaches.  
    • Reaching can cause fatigue and discomfort and can lead to an overload of the back and shoulders
    • Avoid reaching out of shoulder-width distance when using a mouse

Based on a meta-analysis done by the IWH (2016), it was found that implementing workplace resistance training has been found to decrease the risk of upper extremity MSDs. Upper extremity MSDs are injuries to the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Strong evidence was found that resistance training supports a decreased risk of upper extremity MSDs. Some examples of resistance training that can be used are using dumbbells, rubber resistance bands, and body weight. These exercises will cause the muscles to contract due to external resistance and will cause the muscles to increase in strength and resistance abilities. 



Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. (2019). Resource Library: Back. Shoulders. Neck. Hands. Eyes. Happy and Healthy at the Office.

Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. (2020). Resource Library: Positioning the Body to Reduce MSD Injury Risk – Focus on the Shoulder

Institute for Work & Health. (2016). Sharing best evidence: What workplace programs help prevent upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders?




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