Is Sitting at Your Desk a Pain in the Neck?
Millions of people spend a great amount of their working day at a desk staring into a computer screen and frantically typing on a keyboard. And a great deal of those same people will experience back and neck pain. Sitting most of the day is detrimental to your health, so redesigning your workspace will encourage well-aligned posture and alleviate aches and pains.
The primary cause of back and neck pain is that you accommodate to your workstation rather than accommodating your workstation to your posture and needs. The average human head weighs around 12 pounds (think bowling ball). Bending your neck at just 45 degrees exerts 50 pounds of force on it. That pressure strains the joints and muscles in your neck and shoulders and can affect your breathing and mood.
Take a moment to ponder your own workspace. If any or all of the above concern you, changes are needed.
- Do you strain to see your computer monitor—too close, too far away, too high, too dim, etc?
- Is your mouse and keyboard positioned so you don’t have to reach for them?
- Does your chair allow you to maintain the normal curvature of the spine?
- Do you use a laptop more than a desktop?
- Do you conduct regular business on your cell phone?
Starting with the monitor, raise or lower it so your eyes are level with the top of the screen and move it closer or further away so that you can easily read the screen. If neither of those bring immediate improvement, you can also increase the size of the font you use or get a larger monitor.
Next, focus on your mouse and keyboard. Move your desk height or chair height so that your forearms are parallel to the floor or pointed slightly downward. Also, your wrists should be parallel to the floor. If possible, regularly change your mouse from side to side to distribute the usage in your muscles. Other helpful tips include using shortcut keys while typing and perhaps a document holder to avoid looking down. If you make a significant change in your desk or chair height to accommodate the keyboard and mouse, you might need to reposition your monitor level as per above.
Take a moment to see how you normally sit in your chair. Are you upright at a 90-degree angle? If so, you should be adjusting to a slightly reclined position of 100 to 110 degrees. Make sure both feet are touching the ground and use a footrest or stool if needed. Maintain a couple of inches between the back of your knees and the chair to avoid undue pressure. Finally, consider lowering or removing the armrests if your shoulders are not allowed to relax or it interferes with your mouse and keyboard arrangement.
Although laptops are easy to carry around, they tend to make your head and neck move forward and down, putting pressure on the vertebrae and causing pain. When using a laptop, make sure the gaze is no more than 6 inches below your normal gaze to alleviate so much bending in the neck. Prop up the laptop on a book or tray to help. Also, try to take a break from your laptop every 30 minutes or so.
Finally, if you are crafting and responding to emails or reading copious amounts of documents on your cell phone, you have probably felt the neck strain. Using your cell phone as a desktop or laptop can cause severe strain in just a few minutes. It is best to refrain from working and wait until you can get back to your newly redesigned workspace.
Now that you have put the balance back into your workstation, you still want to take advantage of a few helpful tips that allow your muscle, tendons and spine a break:
- Set a timer and get up every 30 minutes—take a walk during a meeting, stand or stretch during a conference call or hand deliver a message instead of emailing
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule—every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20 second break by focusing on something that is at least 20 feet away.
- Engage with your HR department to ensure your workspace can stay ergonomically sound and investigate the possibility of getting a standing or convertible standing/sitting workstation.
But even with the best intentions and effort, our bodies suffer from the effects of long term sitting. If you suffer from occasional or acute neck and back pain, consider other alternatives. Getting a regular massage, incorporating neck exercises, drinking no less than 6 glasses or water per day and using hot and cold therapy will all help relieve the stress.
We at Dr Soothe understand that even in the best of circumstances, you need help. That is why we have created the Back Relieve Hot and Cold Therapy Vest. This state-of-the-art vest can be used quickly and easily to target your neck, shoulders, spine and lower back with either hot or cold relief. Wear it at your desk or away from it—no more awkwardly trying to apply ice packs that won’t stay or heating strips that sting. The Back Relieve vest is ready when you are and will go with you wherever you need. For more information, check us out at DrSoothe.