Prolonged or repeated movement to the neck joints, ligaments, muscles, bones or tendons usually caused by activities, account for the majority of the causes of neck pain.
Tension from focusing intensely or stress often causes painful, tight muscles connecting the shoulders, neck, and head.
This can arise from sitting in front of our computers for long a period of time. For example, you might be working on a project to meet the deadline with so much concentration that you forgot to adjust your posture for a few hours. As you begin to move, you notice how stiff and sore your neck has become - even with a slight headache. There are five primary factors that might cause your neck pain.
1. Postural Strain
If you want to prevent neck pain while working at your computer, maintaining proper posture is one of the most important factors. Unfortunately, many people only have the option to sit at their workstations which can cause significant postural strain in the neck, back and shoulders.
The muscles around your spine and shoulder girdle become tense or guarded, when you begin to experience soreness. As these muscles fatigue and become painful, the surrounding muscles will start to contract in order to compensate for the fatigue in the primary stabilising muscles. Accordingly, you may experience serious pain and muscle guarding throughout the neck and upper back region.
How-To Sit Properly to Reduce Back & Neck Pain
When you must sit to work, make sure you have an office chair that is adjustable and can properly support your body. Besides, try to limit your time to periods of 20-30 minutes, then take a break to stretch or walk around.
How to prevent slouching?
- Sit in the chair fully with your low back touching the lower part of the chair back.
- Ensure that your low back curve is supported either by the curve of the chair back or a small pillow or cushion.
- Your hips and knees should be bent to about 90 degrees.
- Your trunk should be upright with the elbows being supported at a natural height on the armrests.
Another option: Use an adjustable height desk
This will allow you to change positions while working at the computer. When working in standing, your feet should be a comfortable distance apart (often shoulders width) with your trunk remaining upright. Don’t slouch or lean forward over your desk.
2. Desk Setup
If you have a standard sitting desk, the height of the work surface should allow you to type naturally on a computer keyboard. Otherwise, you should consider a keyboard tray or drawer.
If the desk is too high, you should compensate by shrugging your shoulders slightly to elevate your forearms, wrists, and hands to the appropriate level.
If the desk is too low, you’ll be forced to flex your trunk to use the keyboard. This requires you to extend the neck more than usual to allow you to see the computer monitor. This position is usually called a forward head posture. Sitting this way shortens the suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull causing muscles spasms, neck pain, and headaches.
3. Monitor Setup
Your computer monitor is another possible cause of neck pain when you work at the computer for long periods. It should be set at or slightly below eye level to promote a neutral spine position for your neck. All monitors include a stock stand that comes attached to the screen, but many are not adjustable.
Step-by-Step Computer Set-Up to Stop Neck Pain
For a monitor that is too short, prop it on a small shelf or box to reach to correct height. The same rules apply to traditional sitting desks or standing desks. If you’re considering switching to a standing desk converter, some models have a monitor arm already attached.
4. Choose A Proper Office Chair
It important to choose a proper office chair, particularly if you work mostly in a sitting position. Amongst thousands of chairs in the market, ergonomic chairs offer the most adjustment flexibility and correct postural support.
How-To Setup Your Office Chair
- A full back that extends from the seat of the chair to your shoulders or above so as to prevent slouching.
- If it lacks in built-in support, a full back allows you to use a small pillow or lumbar roll.
- The arms of the chair should be adjustable to support the natural position of your elbows when your arms rest at both sides.
- Make sure that the chair height fits well with your desk height.
- Stress is often overlooked as a source of neck pain while working, however, it can amplify the effects of the other factors.
- When we experience stress, our shoulders begin to elevate (or shrug slightly) as part of our fight/flight response.
- This position activates and fatigues the muscles in the neck and upper back leading to neck pain.