Do you have a pain in the neck at work? I don’t mean your boss or coworker, I mean literally. If you have pain in your neck while working, you may be battling what they call “tech neck.” You get to your
office, amp up on coffee, and sit at your desk, ready to start your day. Even before the pre-lunch hunger, you’re being slowed down by tense shoulders, a tight and sore neck and maybe even a headache. You rub the sides of your neck to keep going, but even with breaks the discomfort can linger all day.
If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing the new and growing phenomena of pain associated with the use of technology — “tech neck.” As more of our lives are centered around computers, on tablets, and with nonstop use of cellphones, wear and tear on our necks have increased dramatically. Fortunately, we can take a stand against tech neck! Here are some helpful tips:
1) Optimize your workspace setup
Try to make your workstation as ergonomic as possible for your body. Many companies have ergonomic evaluations and setups. Request one if your company provides it. If not, look online for one of the many resources available.
2) Be mindful of your posture
You may have to check in with your body every 20 or 30 minutes. As your body gets tired you naturally start to slump forward which starts to bend or curve the spine forward. This will put a lot of pressure on your spine and especially your neck. You can tell your mom that she was right all those times when she told you not to slouch! Sit up straight; think about stacking the bones of your spine straight up in a vertical line. Also watch the position of your head in relation to your body. Pull your head back in line with your body so that your ears align with your shoulders if you were looking at yourself from the side.
3) Take breaks
There are 360 joints in the human body. Joints are made to move. The whole human body is made to move. We’re not designed to sit for hours on end. Make sure to get up and move around. Take a short break every 1 to 2 hours to walk around the office, use the restroom and get some water. Even just standing next to your work station for a minute is helpful.
4) Stretch your neck
The muscle on the side of your neck, the upper trapezius, can build up and hold tension. Stretching it can help relieve muscle tension and reduce pain
in the neck. To stretch this muscle, sit or stand up straight with good posture, looking forward. Tilt your head to the right bringing your right ear
towards your right shoulder. Put your right hand on the top of your head and gently pull your head to the right so the ear comes closer to the shoulder until you get a mild to moderate stretch on the left side of your neck. Let me stress gently. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed. Hold this stretch for a full 30 seconds. Relax and repeat to the other side. Do this 3 times on each side. You may want to do this stretch everyday initially until your neck pain starts to ease. Then you can taper down to 2-3 times a week for maintenance.
Make it a goal to overcome tech neck this year with these simple steps, and you’ll have one less battle in the workplace.
By Laurel Mines, PT, DPT