While neck pain might feel like an unavoidable part of desk-job life, it needn’t be. With a few small adjustments, a little more action, and a lot less sitting, your aches and pains will occur far less often, if at all. Read on for five easy ways to reduce neck pain at work and help put an end to those nasty, neck-related headaches.
1. Use a sit-stand desk
Sit-stand desks, or standing desks, allow you to quickly and easily change between seated and standing positions throughout the day. Extended time sitting at your desk is a common cause of back and neck pain at work, and a sit-stand desk can help reduce muscle tightness, tension and associated pain. Try to stand for one to two hours before sitting for 45 minutes, then returning to standing – aim to stand for more than half of the day.
With prolonged sedentary time proven to increase your risk of obesity, cardiovascular and other disease, a sit-stand desk is an investment in your wellbeing for today and into the future!
2. Adjust your monitor
Any HR department knows the importance of a good ergonomic set-up for a healthy and productive workforce. And, while there is no end to the ergonomic office equipment you can buy, a few simple and inexpensive adjustments can also improve your workstation set-up and reduce neck pain.
Start by looking at your computer – your eyes should be in line with the top half or third of the monitor when looking straight ahead. If not, adjust your screen (and/or seat) accordingly. If you’re using a laptop, consider using an external monitor or a laptop stand (plus external keyboard) to ensure the correct eye height. In a pinch, a stack of magazines or books can also do the trick.
Adjust your seat height so that your feet are flat on the ground, with a 90-degree angle at the hips. Knees can be slightly lower, but avoid a seated position where the knees are higher as this can put pressure on the hips.
Ensure your forearms are supported on your desk (at last half the forearm should be on the desk) and that your elbows are at desk height when they are bent at 90 degrees. This applies whether you are seated or standing. (If you are not sure where to start, ask a friendly team member about The Alignment Studio’s ergonomic assessments.)
3. Do some simple stretches
Try to do these three simple stretches in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the afternoon for reduced tension and pain in the upper back and neck.
Upper trapezius stretch – in a seated position hold onto your chair seat with your right hand. Take your left ear down towards your left shoulder, then tilt the chin slightly to the right. With your left hand, gently push the side of the head downward to the left. You should feel a stretch in the right side of the neck and the top of the shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Repeat on the other side.
Levator scapulae stretch – hold your chair seat with your right hand. Take your chin towards your chest, turn your head gently to the left, then bend your head downwards taking your left ear towards your left hip pocket, using your left hand to apply downwards pressure to the back of your head until you feel a gentle stretch above your right shoulder blade. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Repeat on the other side.
Anterior cervicals – pull your collar bones down, then gently bend your neck backwards. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times.
4. Have an eye check
If you find you regularly suffer from neck pain and headaches, it may pay to have an eye check. Straining towards your monitor with a forward head position is frequently a cause of neck pain and cervicogenic headaches. And constant squinting and eye strain certainly won’t help, either!
5. Move every half hour
If you don’t have the luxury of a sit-stand desk, make sure you still get on your feet every half hour. Not only will moving about help relieve neck and back pain and tension, it will boost your energy levels and give you a chance to connect with colleagues face-to-face. Sunny day? Instead of sitting in the conference room for that weekly WIP, suggest a walking meeting in the park.
If you are suffering from neck pain or headaches, give our friendly Alignment Studio team a call today on 9650 2220.
With over a decade’s experience, Jane Lau is a senior physiotherapist with a background in private practice in Australia and overseas. A University of Melbourne graduate and member of the original Collins Place Physio team, she is skilled in treating musculoskeletal and sports injuries, with a primary focus on alleviating neck, back and shoulder pain. With expertise in postural analysis technology, workplace ergonomic assessments and biomechanical screening, Jane is in demand for her comprehensive and caring approach.