To understand the cause of neck pain, we must examine how we move throughout the day. Headaches and neck pain sometimes come from a single injury. However, they often arise from repeated bad habits, such as holding the phone with your shoulder while typing at the computer. Looking at ergonomics at the workplaces is essential when diagnosing and treating cervical pain (which is included in our ergonomic workplace consultations).
Common complaints relating to neck pain for desk workers include:
- Jaw Pain
- Neck pain at the base of the skull
- Pain or a knot-like feeling between the shoulder blades
- Aching or tightness radiating down the arms or into the hands
Pain will be worse with extended time spent at the workstation. Also, symptoms will likely worsen by the end of the week but improve over the weekend or with time off.
Sitting with Good Posture
Taking a closer look at positioning when sitting at a desk can be the answer to eliminating your back pain.
First, look at the chair. You must be able to sit all the way back in the chair with your legs supported and eliminate rocking back on your tailbone or slouching. The chair back should give you good lumbar support so that you can sit with your shoulders directly over your hips.
Your head should be directly over your shoulders as opposed to being slouched with your head forward from your shoulders. With good sitting posture the armrests should just graze your elbows. Your arms should be down by your side with about a little more that 90 degree bend in the elbows.
If you are sitting in a good position with your chair pulled up to the desk, your fingers should be able to touch the keyboard and mouse without reaching. The computer monitor should be about 1 arms length away with your eyes in line with the top 3rd of the screen.
Tools for a More Ergonomic Workstation
Modifications can be made with equipment specially designed for the workplace. These can include stools for the feet, lumbar support, office chairs, trays for keyboards, various different styles of mouse devices, and monitor stands.
Desks can be modified to allow for both sitting and standing while working at the computer. Though it may seem uncomfortable, it’s actually easier to maintain good posture while standing and can eliminate long-term pain. Standing workstations (as well as treadmill workstations) can also strengthen leg and thigh muscles. It is important that the workstation is set up for the ideal fit of the individual person who works there or be modifiable by all who share the same workstation.
Maintaing Posture During Daily Tasks
Other factors to think about are how much do you use other tools at your desk. Do you read a lot of documents, talk on the telephone, use calculators/keypads, or write with a notepad?. None of these things should take you out of a good posture position for long or very often. They should be placed within easy reach, or they can be modified such as in the case of the phone. One can use the speakerphone or a headset to eliminate the side head tilt. Also, good lighting around the computer can help eliminate eye strain and, in turn, eliminate a forward head posture.
Take Regular Breaks
Even with the best sitting posture, one may still have neck pain simply because good posture is hard to hold throughout the length of a normal work day. Our bodies are made to move. Regular breaks should be incorporated to allow for stretching or moving at least 1 time/hour, more if symptoms are acute. Even planning to break up tasks throughout the day, allowing for different positioning as opposed to staying in one position for several hours at a time, can be helpful.
Do you own a business and want to improve the health of your employees? Consider reaching out to an ergonomics consulting team such as Life’s Work Physical Therapy. For individuals, your physical therapist should also be able to evaluate a workstation and make recommendations. A physical therapist can also help you understand the symptoms that you are feeling and prescribe exercises that will help you to keep a happy and healthy body.
Contact Life’s Work Physical Therapy for a consultation and to start your journey to optimal back and neck health.