With many of our clients CBD-based office workers, we see and treat A LOT of neck pain and headaches at The Alignment Studio. And while computers might be a curse, we’re here to tell you there ARE some ways to prevent neck pain.
Why Does Neck Pain Occur?
People with sedentary jobs who sit in front of a computer screen all day are at risk of developing neck pain. This is usually due to poor posture where their spine becomes rounded, and the head starts to protrude forwards. “For every inch that the head comes forward, an additional 10lbs of load is placed on the supporting muscles and joints,” says physiotherapist Conor Brennan.
What’s more “Repetitive turning to one side (if working off two screens) or looking down/to the side when reading documents places extra load on the discs and facet joints in your neck. The muscles in the neck compensate for these poor positions and become overactive, eventually causing pain and muscle spasm.”
Read on for Conor’s top tactics for preventing neck pain!
Moving regularly is crucial to prevent neck pain. Get up from your desk at least every 30 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone, walk to the water fountain or printer. This helps to reset your posture.
Use standing desks if your office has them. You’re able to maintain much better spinal alignment when standing, and this puts much less stress on your neck and back muscles.
2. Improve your desk set up
Having your computer set up correctly for your body type is very important. The top of the screen should be two inches above eye level and roughly at arms-length away from you. Your lower back should have good support from the backrest, your knees should be just below the level of your hips and your feet firmly on the ground.
If possible, ask for an ergonomic assessment at work*. This will ensure you minimise any stress on your spine when sitting at your workstation.
3. Have your eyes tested
If you’re struggling to read the text on the screen and find yourself leaning forwards and straining your neck, consult your optometrist.
4. Do strengthening exercises
To prevent neck pain, it’s important to strengthen the muscles that help support your head. This will help improve your posture and prevent extra strain on your neck muscles. Simple activation exercises like the below can help the bigger muscles relax.
Chin tucks: Sitting up straight, with shoulders back pull your chin in towards your throat (as if making a double chin) and then return to your resting position. Repeat this 10 times every hour you are sitting down.
Shoulder blade squeeze: Sitting up tall with chin tucked in and hands resting on thighs, stick chest out and squeeze shoulder blades together. Hold for 3 seconds and relax to resting position, repeat 20 times.
5. Get a Document holder
If you spend a lot of time using paper documents, you need a document holder. Preferably an in-line document holder that can be placed in between the keyboard and screen. This will help you to maintain a better spine angle and stop you from repetitively looking down and rotating.
6. Lay on a foam roller
Each evening lay on a foam roller (lengthways down your spine) or a rolled-up bath towel. Spread your arms out to the side and let your shoulder blades relax back onto the ground. Lay there for up to 5 mins. This is a great exercise to open up your shoulders and stop you becoming rounded in your upper back and shoulders.
7. Rethink the way you sleep
Sleeping on your back with a small pillow is the best position for your neck. However it’s always possible as you’ll move around in your sleep and revert back to the position you find most comfortable. If you prefer sleeping on your side, use one medium-sized pillow. Get your partner to check that your neck has adequate support so that it’s in a neutral position. Play around with the height of the pillow until you find one that works for you.
8. Nail your driving position
It is very important to set up your seat and mirrors properly to avoid neck pain. Have the seat upright with a slight incline and close enough to the steering wheel so that you’re not reaching forwards. Sit up tall with your shoulders back and your chin tucked in. In this position, fix your mirrors exactly to that position. Every time you start to slouch, it’s a great cue to correct your posture!
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Ana Coan is an experienced and passionate physiotherapist with a decade of experience and qualifications in Pilates, fitness, dry needling and Functional Movement Screening. With a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from Santa Catarina State University (Brazil), Ana has worked in private practice, aged care facilities and with a junior swim team. A former champion swimmer, she brings a unique perspective and keen interest in sports-related musculoskeletal injuries, women’s health and chronic pain to her treatments.