It’s no coincidence that the rise of office jobs has led to an increase in neck pain. Although most people don’t typically think about their office job as physically taxing, sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day can be much more tiring than most people realize. Without the proper precautions and forethought, you may strain your muscles and joints and end up with some long-term injuries.
Back and neck pain is some of the most common problems with working at a computer. While it can be easy to deal with these aches for a day, constant neck pain at work is never good. Read on to learn how you can avoid computer neck pain at work and even get your hands on cool sit stand desks!
Understanding Posture and Ergonomics
Posture and ergonomics are the two most important components for maintaining comfort and preventing any sort of pain in your neck muscle and other joints. Posture refers to the position you hold your body when you are standing, sitting, lying down, or otherwise existing. With good posture, your entire body is aligned correctly, and all of your limbs and body parts are supported by the right balance of gravity and muscle tension. During movement, good posture keeps you balanced, preventing you from constantly tripping or falling over.
Ergonomics is the science of maintaining people’s efficiency in any given working environment. This means that ergonomics will change from job to job. The ergonomics at a construction site will differ from the ergonomics at a desk job. Ergonomics does take into account posture, but it also involves modifying the work to fit the person, not the other way around.
Both posture and ergonomics are important to reducing shoulder pain, neck pain, and ensuring your overall physical comfort, which then factors into your efficiency and productivity.
Preventing Neck Pain
Keep Your Neck Aligned
Your neck serves the primary purpose of keeping your head supported, and the average adult human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. That is a lot heavier than you think, especially if your head is tilted to the side, leaned forward, or otherwise not fully aligned with your neck and spine. That is why neck posture is so important.
If your head is twisted in any way, you will eventually start feeling some pain or a stiff neck feeling. To eliminate a twisted neck, make sure that your computer monitor is placed directly in front of you, not to the side or at an angle. You should also try to avoid setting your screen too low or too high as this can cause you to stare up or look down on your screen, which can strain your neck and shoulders. Investing in a monitor mount will allow you to easily adjust your monitor's position to ensure optimal neck alignment. Working from a laptop? Then a laptop stand should do the job!
What if you have two monitors you ask? If you find yourself using your secondary monitor as much as your primary monitor, it may be time to move it so that both monitors are directly in front of you.
Maintain Good Posture
Start by adjusting your chair. Your thighs should be parallel with the floor, and your feet should lay flat on the floor or on a footrest. Your armrests should be at a height where your arms can gently rest on them while still keeping your shoulders in a relaxed, neutral position.
Adjust your monitor so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level. Your monitor’s exact distance can vary, but you generally want to keep it at least an arm’s length away for good sitting posture.
Keep your keyboard and mouse within easy reach. You shouldn’t have to stretch for either of them. Maintain straight wrists with your upper arms close to your body.
Sit with your upper back straight, but allow your lower back to follow its natural curve. However, try not to accentuate that curve as that can potentially put extra stress on your lumbar or cause lower back pain.
That can seem like a lot of components at once, but don’t overthink it. No two people have the same exact posture needs, so use some trial and error and invest in the right office products to stay aligned and supported while you sit.
Consider Your Eyesight
Before you make any drastic changes to your computer setup, make sure your eye prescription is up to date. Most people naturally go through vision changes as they age, and continued eye strain from glowing screens can speed up that process. You may just need a new set of glasses. Most experts recommend getting your vision checked about once every year.
If you are prescribed bifocals, you may still have to make some minor adjustments to your monitor. However, maintaining good posture will go a long way in keeping your neck comfortable.
Adjust Your Screen
Your computer should look as crystal clear as possible. Any blurriness can lead to you leaning forward, which puts extra muscle strain on your neck. If you are sure that your eye prescription is up to date, go into your display settings and adjust brightness, contrast, resolution, and refresh rate to suit your specific viewing needs. Make sure that the image on the screen is also at a comfortable viewing size. Most programs and apps allow for some level of magnification to increase the screen content size, but there are also third-party apps that will do the same thing. Make sure you use the zoom function where available and increase the font size on your browser.
Screen glare can cause you to unconsciously tilt your neck or squint your eyes at the screen. If glare is an issue, you may have to reposition your monitor. You generally want to keep your monitor at a 90-degree angle with any windows in your room. If your glare is caused by overhead lights, try to dim to them. You can also invest in an anti glare filter over your screen to keep glare at a minimum. Screen hoods can also be placed around your monitor for a similar effect.
Watch Your Phone Use
If your job necessitates a lot of phone usage, avoid leaning your head to one side or pressing the phone to your ear with your shoulder, which will strain your neck and your shoulder. To take the pressure off your neck and maintain a neutral neck position, invest in a hands-free option, like a headset or earbuds with a built-in microphone, or use a speakerphone.
No matter how good your posture or comfy your chair, the human body simply was not designed to stay in one position for several hours on end. It’s important to get up, move around, stretch your limbs, and get the blood pumping to your extremities. Prolonged sitting and a generally sedentary lifestyle have been linked to numerous health problems. Getting up every 30 minutes is ideal, but aim for at least once every hour. Stretch your arms and legs. Shrug your shoulders up and down and around. Rotate your neck and move it side to side. Or if you want to take it up a notch you can check out our post on how to burn calories at your desk.
Work can be a figurative pain in the neck for many different reasons, but it shouldn’t physically hurt your neck. Take some precautions and know when to take a break when your body needs it.