One of the most important aspects in managing neck pain is eliminating or reducing the potential cause of your pain. This was a problem when we worked in offices but in the current state of the world, even more people are working from home.
Makeshift desk setups tend to be even tougher on our bodies.
In many ways technology has made our lives easier.
One of the ways it has made it harder is the effect it has on our posture. Proper ergonomics apply not only to sitting, but they also apply to whatever else you do throughout the day. A slight change in the angle of your head can dramatically impact the tension in your neck and possibly lead to neck pain.
Whether it is the set-up of your monitor or how you use your phone we need to be more aware of the position of our heads.
This image illustrates the increase in force that the cervical spine (neck) takes on when we tilt our head forward to read our phone. Now imagine what that level of force can do to the muscles in the back of your neck. These forces result in strained neck muscles, trigger points, and pain throughout our neck and upper back. When we sit at a desk with poor ergonomics, we strain the neck for hours at a time resulting in injuries.
There is no easy fix for this issue as many careers rely on working at a desk, however we can mitigate the impact by setting up our desk or workstation properly.
Proper Desk Ergonomics
When setting up your workstation, whether at home or at work, there are a few important things to consider. First and foremost, we must set up our monitor to maintain a neutral neck posture. Position the monitor so the top inch of the screen is level with your eyes. This can be accomplished by either raising the monitor up or lowering your chair.
Typically, we want to set our chair to a comfortable position with our feet supported first and then adjust the monitor height. Set up your workstation in this order so that leveling the monitor does not affect your feet position. If you are using a laptop, consider using a separate keyboard and raising the laptop to eye level.
When seated, if you have to lean in to see the monitor, adjust the distance between yourself and the screen. Finally, center the monitor on your desk. You do not want to have to turn your head in either direction in order to read the screen.
The first thing you can do to protect your neck and shoulders is ensure that your desk is at a height that your forearms can rest flat on your desk and are supported.
This prevents you from sitting with your shoulders shrugged and straining your upper trapezius. It is also important to be aware of the position of the mouse while working. Ensure that the mouse is being used with your arms and wrists closer to your body. If you have to continually reach for your mouse it can lead to shoulder injuries and pain.
Take the time to set up your workstation ergonomically and improve your posture. When we take the daily stresses off our muscles, we can finally give the body a chance to recover from injury.