6 Stretches to Prevent Neck Pain From Your Computer

Uncategorized · 05/17/21

6 Stretches to Prevent Neck Pain From Your Computer

 

Working from home has become a norm these days as we are navigating through unprecedented times. For most people this comes with reduced access to ergonomically friendly work stations, increased work hours, and fewer breaks. 

As a result, neck pain from computer work is becoming increasingly prevalent. If left untreated, this issue can worsen. Understanding the basics of a proper workstation setup and posture management strategies will help with treating and preventing any neck pain caused by your desk job.  

Here is what our today’s physiotherapy experts have to say about preventing and treating postural neck pain caused by office work.

 

An Ergonomic Workstation to Prevent Neck Pain

 

Chair

As you browse through a catalogue of the best office chair for neck pain, you will likely be overwhelmed with all the different features they have to offer. However, only a few are important with regards to optimizing your posture. 

Here is a list of features to consider when purchasing an office chair for neck pain:

    • Adjustable height: This will allow you to comfortably rest your feet on the floor.
    • Adjustable armrests: This feature will allow your arm to rest in a neutral position.
    • Lumbar support: This refers to the convex curve along the bottom of the backrest, which provides support for the natural curvature of your lower back.
    • Adjustable lumbar support: This will allow you to adjust the height of the lumbar support to match the location of your lower back curve.
    • Padding material: Ensure that adequate padding is provided to evenly distribute the pressure on your sit bones and back.
    • Adjustable tilt: This will allow you to properly adjust the angle of the hair to optimize your posture.
    • Seat depth: Ensure that there is a small space between the back of your knee and the seat edge. 

Read more: How to Choose the Best Standing Desk Chair complete guide

 

Desk

Your desk will be the foundation of your workstation so it is important to choose one that will help optimize your posture. Here is a list of considerations when choosing the right desk:

 

  • Keyboard tray: Having a keyboard tray under your table will allow you to keep your arms in a neutral position. This will help with maintaining proper posture to offload any unnecessary stress on your neck. 
  • Height adjustable: We’re all built differently and not all desks will be made to suit your height. Having a height adjustable desk will allow you to customize your workstation setup to optimize your posture. Some desks will have a standing feature which provides you the option of a different working position. Ideal to avoid neck pain from sitting at desk

 

Read more: How to Find the Proper Standing Desk Height

 

Monitor Stand

Unless your monitor comes with an adjustable frame, purchasing a monitor stand is important. An improper monitor height is one of the leading causes of neck pain from computer use. By placing your monitor at eye level, it will keep your head in a neutral position, thereby offloading stress on your neck. 

 

Keyboard

A neutral wrist position involves it being in a slightly bent forward position. Most traditional keyboards will place your wrist into a bent back position, which places additional stress to the joint. Increased wrist pain may lead to certain compensations with your shoulder, leading to increased neck tension. We recommend purchasing a keyboard with an elevated wrist rest will help prevent wrist pain when typing for hours. 

 

Mouse

The shape of the mouse has changed over the years with ones that range from a more horizontal to vertical configuration. Some will have the scroller and buttons on the side of the mouse. Choosing the best mouse for you depends on which features you use the most. If scrolling and clicking appears to be the most used aspect of the mouse, we recommend that you choose a mouse with the scroller on the side. If moving the cursor is a larger part of your work duties, choosing a vertical mouse will keep your wrist in a more neutral position. 

 

Workstation Setup to Prevent Neck Pain

Great, now that you have all of your equipment, it’s time to understand how to set up your workstation. 

 

Chair

 

  • Seat height: Adjust your seat so that your knees are bent to 90 degrees and your feet are flat on the floor. 
  • Armrests: Modify the height of the armrests so that your elbows are bent to 90 degrees as you’re sitting up tall. Ensure that your shoulders are not elevated or depressed, as this will place additional strain on your neck. 
  • Lumbar support: Adjust the height of the lumbar support so that matches the location of your lower back curvature. 
  • Tilt: Ensure that the tilt allows you to sit tall but not make it feel effortful to maintain that position. For most individuals, the optimal angle sits between 95-105 degrees. 

 

 

Table

  • Height: Adjust the height of the table to ensure that the keyboard tray matches the height of your chair’s armrests.
  • Equipment location: Position your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other important objects on the table that is easily accessible. Repeated reaching or turning to look at your monitor will place additional strain on your neck. 

 

 

Monitor 

  • Height: Adjust the height of your monitor so that the top third of the monitor is directly in front of your line of sight. This will ensure that your head and neck are in a neutral position. 
  • Brightness: Modify your monitor brightness to ensure that there is adequate lighting. However, avoid maximizing the brightness on the screen as this will create additional strain on your eyes. Having the optimal brightness will ensure that you will not be modifying your head position to adjust for a monitor that is too dim or bright. 

 

 

Stretches to Relieve Neck Pain

Neck pain is often associated with increased neck stiffness. Here are a few simple stretches and exercises for neck pain in office that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help reduce neck tension:

 

Neck Retractions

  • Sit straight on a chair
  • Place two fingers on your chin
  • Look straight and keep your chin parallel with the ground
  • Retract your head backwards, as if you’re trying to flatten the curvature along the back your neck
  • Once you’ve reached the end, gently push a little further with both fingers
  • Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 10 times

 

Upper Back Stretch

  • Sit straight on a chair
  • Intertwine your fingers and place them along the base of your head
  • Point both elbows forward and lift them towards the ceiling
  • Continue until a compression is felt along the mid-back region
  • Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 10 times

 

Neck Side Stretch

  • Sit straight on a chair
  • Keep your head retracted and bend towards one side
  • Use one arm and gently pull it further until you experience a moderate stretch
  • Hold for 1 minute 

 

 

Neck Strengthening Exercises

Chin tuck

  • Lay on your back on firm surface
  • Place one hand along the front of the neck
  • Gently bring your chin towards your chest 
  • Ensure that you are not feeling any muscles engage as that would be an indicator that you are not activating the correct muscles
  • Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times 

 

Isometric neck strengthening

  • Sit straight on a chair
  • Place the palm of your hand on your forehead 
  • Tuck in your chin and resist with your palm so that your head is not moving
  • The muscles along the front of your neck shoulder engage
  • Hold a gentle contraction for 1 minute

 

Neck retraction strengthening

  • Go on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulder and knees under your hips
  • Look straight down and lift your head straight up towards the ceiling
  • You should feel the muscles along the back of your neck engage
  • Hold a gentle contraction for 1 minute

 

More Tips and Tricks

  • Take breaks: Our bodies were not designed to hold a position for prolonged periods. Simply just rolling your head every hour for a few seconds can significantly reduce the tension in your neck.
  • Stay active: Keeping your joints moving and muscles activating will help reduce neck stiffness. If you don’t know where to start, try a few sports in recreational leagues or engage in a fitness challenge with a friend for motivation. 
  • Change positions: If your workstation table has a standing option, we recommend using it. Changing your position will divide the stress among multiple joints and muscle groups, thereby reducing the stress on your neck. 
  • Set your schedule: Schedule your lunch breaks and strict work hours. Working has become so convenient that individuals are working through their lunches and beyond their scheduled work hours, which has led to increased neck pain. 

 

Seeking Professional Assistance

If you continue to experience neck pain despite all the best efforts, we recommend seeking help from a registered physiotherapist. Your first session will involve a comprehensive examination to determine the root cause of your neck pain. Following the assessment, your physiotherapist will create a treatment plan that will generally involve a combination of hands on therapy, home exercises, and education.

If you have any additional questions, the team of qualified physiotherapists at Cornerstone Physiotherapy in Toronto will be happy to provide a 10-minute complementary phone consultation.

 

About the Author

Cedric Quach is a physiotherapist listed at the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, and holder of a Master of Science degree from McMaster University and a Diploma of Manipulative Physiotherapy (FCAMPT) from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. His specialties are orthopaedics and vestibular rehabilitation.