Posted on Mar 18th 2021
If your job requires you to sit at your desk for extended periods of time, you’re not unlike many other workers across the nation. Unfortunately, sitting 40 hours a week is not ideal for physical health. Poor posture and the sedentary lifestyle that is common with desk job workers can lead to a variety of aches, pains, injuries, and spinal issues. Neck pain is a common complaint, affecting more than 10% of the general population.
In this article, we review several ways you can avoid neck pain at the office. Our list includes activities such as exercises and stretches, tips for proper posture, and office ergonomic suggestions.
How's Your Vision?
We hear this often: I’ve always had 20/20 vision. I had my eyes checked recently, my prescription is right. Isn’t it normal to have to lean in when looking at the screen?
Constant exposure to computer screens may worsen vision over time, so if you find yourself struggling to read what is on your screen, it may be time to get your vision checked. Vision strain can lead to poor posture, as people often lean in closer to their screens when they cannot see properly. This puts pressure on the neck and spine, which will lead to aches and pains at the end of the workday. The recommended viewing distance is 20 to 40 inches from your monitor to your eyes.
To avoid vision-related neck strain, make sure you have the proper prescription glasses or contact lenses and set up your monitor at the proper viewing distance.
Consider a Standing Desk
Standing desks have become very popular in recent years, for good reason. Sitting for long hours strains your spine and back muscles. Standing desks bring some balance into your work-life by breaking up the long hours of sitting. Standing desks are fantastic for posture, but they’re not a magical cure for slouching. You’re still going to have to put some effort in to ensure correct spinal alignment.
If you’re new to the concept of a standing desk, we recommend easing into it. Try your first hour seated, then stand for an hour, switching on and off as feels comfortable. As you get used to the new desk, try standing for longer periods of time.
Besides switching between standing and sitting, frequent breaks are also important. A short break where you change your position and stretch a bit should occur every 30 minutes. Every hour to hour and a half, take a longer break -- go for a brisk walk around the office and give your eyes a chance to rest.
Set Up Your Monitor in the Right Way
In order to keep the ideal neutral spine position, your monitor angle needs to be positioned just under eye level. You should ideally have a monitor that has an adjustable height, but if this is not possible, consider placing magazines, books, or anything else to prop up your screen.
In addition to the correct position, your monitor should also be decent. You’re going to be staring at this thing for 8 hours a day, so make sure you put some money towards a high-quality screen if you can. The image needs to be bright, sharp, and stable.
Focus on Your Posture
Your posture has a significant effect on the chances of developing chronic neck pain. These are some common mistakes:
- Slouching back in a chair. This position causes tension in various muscles.
- Hunching over your desk. Also known as “text neck”, this position will cause you problems down the line.
- Cradling your handset. Most of us are into the art of multitasking. When someone calls us, we hold the phone between the shoulder and ear. Genius, right? Not quite. This position will cause muscle imbalances and will strain your neck.
- Choosing the wrong chair. Look for an ergonomic chair that offers full back support. The chair’s position should also be completely customizable. It needs to be able to adapt to your requirements, not the other way around.
For proper posture, your back should be completely and comfortably supported. Your knees need to be lower than your hips, with your feet placed flat on the floor. If you need to, use a footrest. Your wrists and forearms should be straight and level with the floor. The arm should form an ‘L shape’.
Exercises to Avoid Neck Pain
There are multiple effective exercises you can implement as part of your daily routine to avoid neck pain:
‘Sit up straight’ exercise. As we’ve already mentioned, posture is a huge factor in neck pain. To encourage proper posture, do this: rotate your shoulders back and hold for a few seconds. Release, relax, breathe, and repeat. Do this a handful of times.
Chin raise stretch. Turn your head to the side while tilting your head up rather than down. Once you’ve turned your head 90 degrees, hold for 90 seconds. Remember to keep your shoulders still at all times. We recommend doing this 2-3 times on each side.
Spine stretch. This one should be done from a standing position. While looking straight ahead, put your hands behind your head, with your elbows facing either side of you. Pull your elbows back slowly, feeling the stretch as you move. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, repeating the exercise another 3-5 times as necessary.
Common Sitting Positions to Avoid
It’s best to never hold any one position for an extended period -- always take stretching and walking breaks. When seated or standing, it’s important to maintain a neutral posture. These three common office postures contribute to pain and should be avoided:
- Crossing your legs. Although a common position, sitting cross-legged is not ideal as it can cause lower back pain.
- Outstretched legs. Stretching your legs out in front of you puts pressure on the tailbone, leading to back pain.
- Sitting in the middle of your chair. You either want to sit at the edge of the chair with an erect spine or sit against the back of your chair. Sitting in the middle encourages slouching, which can cause both back and neck pain.