If you’re one of the many who make your living sitting at a desk, you’ve probably suffered neck pain at some point already. Sitting in front of a computer, with deadlines to meet, shoulders hunched, head pounding, the in-laws coming to town… It can be a bit overwhelming for your neck and shoulders.
And while I can’t help you with your in-laws (can you help with mine?), I can show you a few tricks to keep your job from becoming a pain in the neck.
1. Neck Pain From Poor Posture – Sit up straight!
The longer you sit at your computer, the more likely your head is to feel the magnetic pull of your monitor. Your shoulders slump and your neck folds back on itself as you drift helplessly toward the screen. Your neck pain starts to kick in. Hey! Wake up!!! The farther your head moves forward from your shoulders, the heavier it feels.
Want to test that theory? Grab something nice and heavy like a bowling ball (you know you have one… it’s in the closet behind your Thighmaster) and cradle it against your chest. Not too bad! Now, hold it out at arms-length for a while. Feel how much harder you have to work to hold it up? And by the way, that’s not an earthquake, it’s just your arms shaking (put the ball down)… you get the point.
2. Stretch (more than) once in a while.
It’s an indisputable fact: computer use is directly proportional to terrible posture (and neck pain). It’s like you age 40 years over the course of a day – all hunched over with your arms and shoulders up like a praying mantis. So, get your 86-year-old body out of your chair once an hour, stretch your arms and shoulders, and gain back that 6 inches of height you lost before lunch. And take some deep breaths while you’re at it (see number 5 below). Stretching can help put a damper on neck pain. My favorite stretches for this particular scenario are called Corner Stretches.
3. Consider a Sit/Stand workstation To Keep Neck Pain Away.
This is just what it sounds like. A desk that allows you to quickly raise or lower the work surface so that you can work both sitting and standing. Standing helps keep your body moving, makes you use different muscle groups, and keeps your blood flowing. And standing can help you keep a closer eye on those co-workers of yours (neck pain will hinder your spying efforts)! I recommend these to anyone who is stapled to a desk all day long. You’d be surprised how many companies will get you one of these workstations when presented with a friendly prescription letter from your local chiropractor.
4. Keep your elbows close to your body.
If you use a computer, you can save yourself a lot of neck pain by keeping your elbows close to your body. When your elbows are at your sides, your arms can hang straight down allowing your shoulders to drop and relax. Even if you don’t use a computer, arrange your work close to your body in order to minimize the amount of time you spend reaching. Your neck and upper back will thank you all day long.
People who sit at a desk all day tend to slump forward, making it more difficult to draw breath. The result is shallow breathing. When this happens, your accessory muscles of respiration (the muscles that help you breath) have to work really hard to help pull air into your lungs. And you know what happens when muscles get overworked, right? Hint: they get stiff and sore. And guess where these ones are located? In your neck and shoulders! So, every time you think of it, stretch your shoulders back and take 4-5 deep breaths. It feels good, will cut down on neck pain, and brain will thank you for the extra oxygen.
6. Use voice recognition software.
If you’re in an environment where talking won’t disturb others, then this is a great option. My personal favorite is Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is expensive, at $200, but it will type 100+ words per minute for you. The technology is fantastic – I’ve used this for years – and allows you to work nearly hands-free. You talk, it types. You’ll never be able to say ‘nobody listens to me’ again!
7. Conduct an ergonomic assessment of your workspace.
Ergonomics simply means making your workspace fit you, rather than contorting your body to fit your workspace. Having your monitor, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair properly fitted can decreasing neck pain, as well as reducing stress on your shoulders and back. Many companies provide ergonomic assessments for their employees, but you may have to ask. If you have to do it yourself, try using this workstation planner from Ergotron. Simply click on the link, click your height in inches, and it does the rest! How simple is that?
Making one or more of these suggestions part of your workday routine can really help to decrease the amount of neck pain you have while working. But if things are too far gone, a good chiropractor can get you back on track quickly!