How was your day at the computer screen? Did you get up and move around every 30-40 minutes? How does your neck feel – stiff and sore, with a headache or tight shoulders? Chances are that it directly relates to your posture at work.
Activities that are repeated or prolonged can affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints of the neck and back. These include the following:
- Poking your head forward to read a computer screen. Doing this for a prolonged period will cause or aggravate neck pain.
- Repetitive movements of your arms or upper body. Using a keyboard, mouse or trackpad, for example, or many types of manual work involve this kind of repeated movement.
- Sitting incorrectly. If your workstation is too low, you will put pressure on the upper-half of your body as you lean in to view the monitor. Too high and you will need to elevate your arms to type, causing neck tension.
- Poor lifting techniques. Your neck is at risk almost as much as your back when you lift heavy loads incorrectly.
The key to protecting your neck is to keep both your head and neck in a neutral position while maintaining the natural curve of your cervical spine – the part that supports your head. Follow these tips to ensure that you take good care of your spine and neck.
1. Set up your workstation
Most people sit with the monitor too low for them, their desks too high, and without setting up the chair for their individual needs. Follow these tips to reduce the strain your daily routine is causing.
- Your chin needs to level with the bottom of the monitor, and directly in front of you – never twist your neck to read the screen.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor, and the back of your chair in an upright position. This helps keep your spine neutral.
- Adjust your chair so that your knees are bent at 90 degrees, and arms are comfortably on the rests or desk.
- If you need to crane your neck forward to read the screen, you should buy computer glasses from your optometrist to help reduce eye strain.
- On the phone all day? Try not to cradle the phone between your ear and neck – use an ergonomic neck cradle, headset, or speakerphone.
2. Lift correctly
It is essential to protect your spine when lifting light and heavy objects – because even picking up paperclips and coins from the floor can cause problems.
- Never bend your back – always bend at your hips and knees.
- Hold the object close to your body, and avoid twisting.
- Lift upwards by straightening up your knees.
- Never pick up the load quickly as you may strain yourself.
3. Take regular breaks
Our bodies like to move. Sitting in one position for long periods, however good your posture, will put stress on your body.
- Stretch the muscles in your neck and shoulders at least once an hour.
- Gently tilt your head from side to side, roll your shoulders, and even take a short walk around the office.
If you find you are suffering from recurring back and neck pain despite taking these precautions, it may be that the root cause is stress-related.
Stress can both drain your energy and impact your performance, leading to a no-win situation. If you find that your current role is starting to affect your health, consider taking time off. It may also be time for you to change the office you work in.