Working from home has many benefits, but there’s also a worrisome downside. Remote workers are increasingly struggling with work-related neck pain.
Our skilled team at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers has helped many remote workers get relief from their neck pain, but we would rather help you prevent the problem. To do that, we’re diving into the causes of work-related neck pain and recommending a few preventive measures.
Your spine is designed to distribute stress in a way that prevents one vertebra, disc, or muscle from sustaining more pressure than they can manage.
Good posture (along with strong core muscles) holds the vertebrae in the alignment needed to prevent stress on your neck. Poor posture causes too much pressure in one area, leading to pulled muscles, inflammation, tissue tears, and a pain in your neck.
Working at home increases the odds that poor posture will contribute to neck pain. You may pay less attention to your posture at home where coworkers and bosses can’t see you. You might sit in a stuffed chair at home that encourages slouching or use an uncomfortable desk chair.
Another major cause of poor posture leading to neck pain is spending too much time bending your head to look down at electronics. Many people find they spend more time using electronics at home compared to being in the office.
Your neck supports the weight of your head, which is about 12 pounds on average. When you bend your neck, the pressure increases. The more your neck bends, the more weight it supports, sustaining the equivalent of 27-60 pounds, depending on the angle.
Your neck muscles can’t manage that much stress. Before long, you end up with strained muscles and neck pain.
Bending your neck and slouching also increases the pressure on your spinal discs and puts excessive stress on your upper back and shoulders. These issues lead to pinched nerves, headaches, and muscle cramps and knots (trigger points).
Ergonomics refers to making your work environment comfortable and safe. When working from home, your ergonomic environment is determined by the position of the screen, keyboard, and chair in relation to your body.
Proper ergonomics takes the stress off your neck by ensuring you maintain good body posture. Having your computer screen or smartphone in a position that forces you to bend your head and look down is an example of bad ergonomics.
You also add stress to your neck if your devices are improperly positioned for your arms. If you have to reach out or raise your arms to use the keyboard, you’ll feel the stress in your upper back, shoulder, and neck muscles.
Here are three steps you can take to lower your risk of developing neck pain:
You can support your spine’s natural alignment by keeping your back straight, shoulders slightly back (not hunched forward), and your head up, with your eyes looking forward rather than down (or to the side).
Use ergonomics to support your posture. Position your monitor, tablet, or smartphone so your eyes hit the middle of the screen when you’re looking straight ahead.
Place the keyboard at a level that lets you hang your arms straight down from your shoulders, bend your elbow at a right angle, and keep your hands and arms parallel to the floor when using the keyboard.
Ergonomic desk chairs are specially designed to support your lower back and neck and maintain good posture. Adjust the seat so your feet are flat on the floor, and then position your keyboard and screen accordingly.
People working from home find that they stay in one position longer than they would at the office, a habit that significantly increases your risk of neck pain. Taking regular breaks to stand up, stretch, and move helps prevent neck strain.
If you need relief for pain in your neck or any other body area, visit us before the end of December. Call the office or use online booking to schedule an appointment before deductibles reset in 2024!