A Report About Neck Pain in the Workplace
Neck pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain are the top three musculoskeletal reasons people go to the doctor.
However, a lot of these people go to the doctor because of an injury like a fall or a car accident. What about all the people who don’t have an injury but still have neck pain? They may say “it’s just work tension” or “stress at home”. Although this may be the case, but it doesn’t make it any less damaging to ignore. Thousands of people are sitting at their work desks everyday for hours at a time. Their posture is terrible, their muscles are fatigued and strained, and they feel stiff or sore. Even driving home in traffic can add more stress on already stiff necks.
Sadly, people do this every day and don’t realize the harm they are doing to their spine. This can cause damage that may have detrimental effects and loss of function. Even worse, they know they are having pain but they do nothing about it! Why put this off and do nothing, you ask? I know the answer because I have asked my patients this very question when I see them two months, five months, eight months, one year after their pain began!
Here’s what they tell me:
“I just thought it was stress”
It probably was part of the problem, but why not do something about it?
“I just had to finish a project at work and thought it would go away after it was done”
Maybe it would have if they had changed their habits at that point instead of continuing to work the same amount. There never seems to be an end to deadlines and projects at work, so you have to make changes in your habits.
My personal favorite reason:
“I just didn’t have time”
I understand that many of feel like we don’t have time. We’re all busy, but you have to make time for yourself. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to commit to making yourself feel better. That’s not asking too much to get rid of your pain.
The solution is simple….awareness
Just by being aware of a few things can drastically change the way your neck and shoulders feel. As a result, you’ll have more energy and less stress, allowing you to enjoy life more.
Before I get into what you should be doing, I want to share a story of one of my patients.
This patient was a middle-aged, married female. She had two kids and worked at least ten hours a day in a high stress job. Because she was the team leader, everything came down to her at the end of the day. She came to my clinic with a prescription from her doctor for shoulder pain. I knew right away that it was much more than that. Her upper back was hunching forward, her shoulders were slumping, and her neck muscles were tight. She had difficulty sleeping, performing her work duties to the best of her ability, and most importantly, she couldn’t play basketball with her son because the pain was too unbearable. Imagine having to tell your son or daughter that you can’t play with them. This woman was heading down the wrong road. Stress, pain, poor posture, stiffness, tightness. This was all due to her work habits.
I treated her and began working on her thoracic spine, shoulder blades and cervical spine. I explained that these areas were more related to her shoulder pain and causing more issues than the shoulder joint itself. She went through a full treatment with me and I gave her exercises and tips to do at work and at home. I explained the importance of making time to do the things I was teaching her. By the end of our time together, she was not only feeling less pain, but she was feeling improved mobility and had better posture. She actually looked taller by the time we were finished! Her confidence had improved dramatically. She was able to play basketball with her son without any issues, which was great! She even taught her work team the exercises and posture tips so they could become more productive and avoid/eliminate neck pain themselves!
This is why I wanted to present this guide to you.
I want you to experience the level that this woman was able to reach. Of course, she went through a full, formal treatment with me (I will let you know how you can get that as well later). However, what I am going to share with you will drastically change how you feel at work and throughout the day in general if you follow what these guidelines.
Posture and Ergonomics
Proper desk and workstation set up is critical to avoid overuse and strain on the neck and shoulders. If you must sit for hours (which I don’t recommend, even with proper set up) at least follow these workstation guidelines:
- Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor
- Your knees should be at or just below the height of your hips
- Your hips should be all the way back in the chair and the chair back should be slightly reclined (about 100-110 degrees)
- Arm rests should be adjusted to a height that allows the shoulders to relax
**TIP: Use a pillow or towel roll to support the lower back. Place and remove the pillow every 30 minutes to create a more dynamic seating device.
Mouse and Keyboard
- Pull up as close as possible to the keyboard and center it on your body according to the area of the keyboard you use the most
- Adjust the height of the keyboard so that your shoulders are relaxed and your wrists and hands are straight
- Make sure the mouse is as close to the keyboard as possible to avoid excessive reaching
- If you are unable to adjust the height of your keyboard, try using a seat cushion to elevate your body and a foot rest to support your feet if they dangle.
**TIP: Adjustable desks that allow for sitting and standing are a great way to remain dynamic. Alternate sitting and standing every 20-30 minutes.
Monitors and Phones
- Center the monitor right in front of the keyboard
- The top of the monitor should be approximately 2-3 inches above eye level
- Use a headset for your phone to avoid “cradling” the phone between the neck and shoulders while working
**TIP: Use optical glass glare filters and keep your monitor at a right angle to windows to avoid excessive eye strain and glare.
- Even with the perfect ergonomic set up, it is important to rest and change your positioning.
- Take breaks every 20-30 minutes to do some light stretching or move around. It’s important to keep your muscles moving to reduce stiffness and pain
**TIP: Set a timer so you don’t get caught up in your work and for get to take breaks
Exercise is important for everyone and everyone should make time to do it each day. For those of you who have sedentary jobs in front of a computer all day, this is especially important. I have put together a list of the best exercises to do at your work station or in your office to minimize neck and shoulder pain. I’m only going to show you a few, but they are highly effective in reducing neck pain. Even more importantly, they will keep you moving allowing for improved circulation and improvement in posture.
Tilt your head to either side until you feel a stretching/pulling sensation in along the side of your neck. Use your hand to provide a gentle pressure further into the stretch. Be sure not to tilt your body to the side. Hold this for 20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times to each side.
Link your hands behind your back. Pull your shoulders back and focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and down. Be sure not to arch your back to compensate for limited mobility. Take deep breaths to help your muscles relax further. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
Stand in the doorway with your palms and forearms against the frame. Lean forward until you feel a stretch across your chest muscles. Take controlled deep breaths to help you relax your muscles. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
This is a basic range of motion exercises that will help decrease stiffness in your neck and neck muscles. While sitting up tall with good posture, turn your head to one side until you feel a mild stretch or resistance. Hold this position for ten seconds and then turn to the other side holding for ten more seconds. Repeat this ten times to each side.
For best results:
Repeat these exercises every hour. Remember, it will only take about five minutes to get these done and will serve as a good break during your work day.
Poor postural habits are what lead to neck pain.
The longer you sit and work at your computer, the more slouched your posture becomes. The key to improving your posture is improving your awareness of your posture. Just as practicing and repeating any type of skill makes you better at that activity, practicing good posture will result in better postural awareness and maintenance of proper posture.
Proper posture reduces the stress that the weight of your head puts on your neck and neck muscles. As you sit, your head and shoulders tend to drift forward putting strain on the muscles of your neck and shoulders. Consequently, the longer you sit this way, the greater the likelihood that you will experience pain.
How to improve your posture awareness
To achieve proper posture, first sit up tall in your chair. Second, bring your shoulder blades back and slightly downward. Next, draw your head back so your ears are in line with your shoulders. This is proper posture and some of you may have a lot of difficulty getting into this position. This is where the practice comes into play.
What you need to do to improve and become more aware of your posture is simple. Every time you sit down, properly set your posture as mentioned above. I don’t just want you to do this at work. I want you to do this at home when you sit at the dinner table and even in your car while you are sitting at traffic lights. You should hold and maintain this posture for approximately one minute. The goal of this practice is to help you feel what proper posture is and retrain your body to stay into proper posture. The more you practice this activity, the more aware you will become of your posture. As a result, you will begin to feel when you start to slouch at your desk as you become more habitual with proper posture.
These guidelines and exercises will help your neck to feel better and allow you to work with less pain and greater productivity. These are great guidelines for a majority of neck and shoulder pain sufferers out there, but it may not be enough for everyone.
That’s why I am offering a FREE phone or Skype consultation to anyone who downloaded this report.
It is obviously meaningful to you to get your neck pain resolved and to prevent greater injury, so don’t delay any longer!
Don’t be the person who waits until your pain becomes more serious.
Contact me today at (301) 356-5500
Mention the Neck Pain Report to get your free phone consultation. This consultation is FREE and will determine if you are a good candidate for my neck pain program.