We all know that basic workplace ergonomics can support a healthy neck. If we keep our desk at elbow height, our computer screen at eye-level and our feet flat on the floor we should be fine, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. In fact, Australians suffer from high levels of neck pain and it’s consistently rated as one of the top five causes of disability. So what can be done to reduce work-related neck issues?
1. Get up and move
Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health. Even when you have the correct posture, sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even mortality. It should come as no surprise that it can also be detrimental to your neck.
Sit-to-stand desks encourage movement and are a great place to start if the option is available. Try to alternate between sitting and standing every hour throughout the day. If you don’t have access to a sit-to-stand desk, set a reminder to stand up every 45 minutes and have a short stretch or walk.
2. Stay fit
Engaging in regular exercise and physical activities outside of the office has been shown to decrease neck pain and headaches. You don’t need to spend hours exercising. If you’re short on time, high intensity interval training is a great way to get results quickly.
3. Manage work stress
Many of us are aware that stress can lead to neck pain and tension headaches. When we stress our shoulder and neck muscles tighten, resulting in discomfort. Everyone gets stressed from time to time, but if it’s causing problems it’s important to resolve it before it gets out of control. Exercise, meditation and breathing are all great techniques for reducing stress.
Take two minutes and try this… as you sit there reading, feel how much tension there is in your neck and shoulder muscles. Now concentrate on breathing deep down into your stomach so it moves in and out with each breath. How’s the tension in your neck and shoulder muscles now? Can you feel the difference?
These muscles aren’t meant to work all day to do your breathing for you, but we get stuck in a negative pattern and forget what’s actually meant to happen. Practice diaphragmatic breathing and you’ll find that a lot of your neck tension will disappear.
5. Don’t look down
Research suggests that looking down for extended periods of time increases the forces passing through your neck by 600%. The more you look down, the more likely you are to have neck problems. Keep this in mind when you’re reading a book or looking at your smartphone and aim to keep your ears in line with your shoulders.