Office Pain Mitigation: Wrapping Your Head Around Tech Neck
By Martha Michael
If you’re a real head turner when you enter a room, it could mean you’re easy on the eyes. But if the head that’s turning is your own, it may add up to stress on your neck that could lead to painful health problems.
The London Pain Clinic published a study of individuals whose jobs involve the use of technology to take a closer look at the major causes of neck pain due to frequent computer use. Data the researchers collected on employees in an office setting showed that nearly 35 percent of the workers had at least one incident of neck pain related to computer use. Most of them were females who tended to have poor screen and keyboard positioning. Many sufferers were also battling stressful conditions and had lifestyles involving a low rate of exercise.
Based on the results, the London Pain Clinic article adds a list of factors in the workplace that may contribute to poor posture, which is a common cause of neck pain:
- Height of computer screen - It can’t be placed too high or too low. Put the monitor on blocks if necessary, and if you have little space for it on your desk, employ a monitor arm.
- Fatigue - Employers should recognize the need for workers to take breaks.
- Stress and tension - Watch for temperament changes, as it may trigger physical issues in the upper body.
- Seated too low - If necessary, invest in arm rests for your chair.
- Repetitive head movements - If your job requires looking side-to-side repeatedly, the muscles, tendons and ligaments can become stressed.
Home Computer Use
You don’t have to use electronics at work to suffer some of the hazards brought on by excessive tech use. If you’re an avid e-book reader, or you’re rarely without your iPad, you may feel it in your upper body eventually.
“Your neck angle makes all the difference,” says an article on the Harvard Medical School website, which cites a study showing that simply adjusting your viewing angle provides relief. “Looking at a tablet for long periods of time affects your neck, head, and shoulders. The farther down it is, the more you have to bend your neck to get down to it."
Posture is key, and the necks of tablet readers suffer because they typically hold devices in their laps, which forces the cervical vertebrae to bend forward. Research shows that it strains and can eventually injure muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and discs, the article says. When computer users prop up their tablets, however, there is a reduction in damage to the neck.
Harvard researchers offer suggestions to avid tech users who want to minimize the pain and injury caused by postural problems associated with computers.
- Use a tablet case to prop up your device
- Change your position every 15 minutes
- Use an external keyboard
- Keep shoulders relaxed
- Place forearms parallel to the floor
- Hold elbows close to your body
There are general wellness choices you can make to push back the prospect of pain problems. Topping the list of self-care options suggested by the London Pain Clinic is having routine checkups. Share your symptoms with your chiropractor, who will need to know when they began and the conditions at your workplace or home computer station.
Because the cervical spine is greatly affected by poor technical posturing, cervical manipulation is likely to be a part of your treatment. The area at the base of your skull, with its seven vertebrae, is supporting the approximately 12-pound weight of your head. Your chiropractor will want to address the biomechanical factors involved in tech use, such as sitting for long periods and repetitive movement. He or she may recommend some stretching and muscle strengthening exercises to reduce strain to your neck. Applying heat or ice may reduce your symptoms as well.
The irony is that based on studies of the physical effects of life in a brave new world, your self-care should also include some old-fashioned ideas, such as a healthy diet, exercise and any effort to lower your stress. It’s nice to be a person with all the equipment to turn heads, but the real beauty lies in keeping your neck pain-free.
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