Have you got a pain in the neck?
If you are living with long term neck pain, it can make your life a nightmare. Perhaps it’s a constant grumbling pain that you’re trying to cope with day to day or maybe it’s a pain that flares up from time to time and leaves you really struggling. Whatever the type of pain, the chances are it’s preventing you doing things and probably making you miserable too. But the good news is that in most cases, it’s preventable and in the next three blogs, I’ll be looking at the common causes of neck pain and more importantly, what you can do to prevent it in the first place.
Is poor posture at work causing you pain?
One of the number one causes of neck pain has to be poor posture at work and it’s no surprise that most people I see in clinic with neck pain are office-based and spend a lot of time looking at computer screens.
If this sounds familiar, then it’s important that you set yourself up properly at your work station to minimise any strain on your neck. If you have an HR department, check to see if there is the facility to have your work station evaluated. If there isn’t, or if you’re a home worker, work through the simple steps detailed below.
Support and protect your back
A correctly adjusted chair will reduce the strain on your back and ensure your lower back is properly supported. Make sure you have a chair that is easily adjustable, so that you can change the height, back position and tilt. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and use a foot rest, if necessary.
Adjust your chair
Adjust your chair height so that you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. This can also help to prevent repetitive strain injuries. Your elbows should be by the side of your body, so that the arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint.
Rest your feet on floor
Your feet should be flat on the floor. If they’re not, ask if you can have a foot rest which lets you rest your feet at a level that’s comfortable. Don’t cross your legs, as this can cause posture-related problems.
Place your screen at eye level
Your screen should be directly in front of you. A good guide is to place the monitor about an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen roughly at eye level. To achieve this, you may need to get a stand for your monitor. If the screen is too high or too low, you’ll have to bend your neck, which can be uncomfortable.
Using the keyboard
Place your keyboard in front of you when typing. Leave a gap of about four to six inches (100mm-150mm) at the front of the desk, to rest your wrists between bouts of typing. Your wrists should be straight when using a keyboard. Keep your elbows vertical under your shoulder and right by your side. Some people like to use a wrist rest to keep their wrists straight and at the same level as the keys.
Keep your mouse close
Position and use the mouse as close to you as possible. A mouse mat with a wrist pad may help to keep your wrist straight and avoid awkward bending. If you are not using your keyboard, push it to one side if you are still using the mouse a lot.
Avoid screen reflection
Your screen should be as glare-free as possible. Position the monitor to avoid reflection from overhead lighting and sunlight. If necessary, pull blinds across the windows and replace ceiling lighting with table lights. Adjusting the screen’s brightness or contrast can make it much easier to use.
Working with spectacles
People with bifocal glasses may find them less than ideal for computer work. It’s important to be able to see the screen easily without having to raise or lower your head. If you can’t work comfortably with bifocals, you may need a different type of glasses. Consult your optician if in doubt.
Make objects accessible
Position frequently used objects, such as your telephone or stapler, within easy reach. Avoid repeatedly stretching or twisting to reach things.
Avoid phone strain
If you spend a lot of time on the phone, try exchanging your handset for a headset. Repeatedly cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder can strain the muscles in your neck.
Of course, work is just one part of the neck pain puzzle and in my next blog I’ll be looking at what you are doing at home, whether that’s spending too much time with your tablet or sleeping with too many pillows.