I most often hear people blame their chair when they’re uncomfortable at their computer workstation, but in reality, a common cause for their actual discomfort, is the incorrect placement of their monitor, particularly when the monitor is placed too far.
A monitor position that is too far from the user causes people to lean forwards away from the backrest to lean in towards the monitor.
This causes prolonged slouching and poking chin postures, creating pressure on joints in the upper neck causing headaches, and over activation of the upper trapezius muscles leading to neck pain as well as high compression on the lumbar spinal discs leading to back pain.
So, how do we fix this? Buy a new chair? Of course not. If you’re sitting badly, always check that when leaning backwards against your chair, if you place your arms in front of you like Frankenstein, your fingers touch the screen. If they don’t, bring your screen closer.
At the same time, ensure that your forearms are supported either on your desk, or on your armrests. This will differ depending on other factors in your setup.
Please join the conversation, ask questions, make comments or share with friends and colleagues if you found this helpful.
Who of you find that at the end of a day at work, your neck or shoulders are sore or aching? Neck pain is so common, that between 30-50% of the population will suffer from it at some point, and office workers are even more at risk of developing neck pain.
There are a number of reasons why neck pain is so common, particularly amongst office workers. Let’s look at a few of the reasons why:
The way that you sit at your desk and use your technology has a large impact on your physical posture and can either relieve or create neck or lower back pain. The posture that you sustain for extended periods of time will have a knock on effect on your muscles, joints, circulation of the blood, circulation of your nervous system and importantly, the ability of your lungs to expand and thus oxygenate your brain. Are you enabling all these systems to work well or are you compromising them through your posture and creating neck or lower back pain?
When we work too long and too hard without breaking our work up into bite size chunks, we deplete our energy and our concentration levels and reduce our effectiveness, but, we also tire our bodies out more than we otherwise would that could lead us to developing neck or lower back pain. In fact, research has shown that a lack of micro breaks throughout the day results in a higher risk of developing aches and pains. Hmmm, who would’ve thought? and it’s the one thing I’ve noticed about South Africans – we don’t pace ourselves. This is really not good for our health.
Ah, who feels like moving when they’re tired? I must confess that I’ve had more than my fair share of couch potato moments. Not only that, most of us hate breaking our work rhythm when we’re on a roll. However, exercising regularly (on a daily basis or even once a day) is great for us in soooooo many ways. Moving helps relieve tension that has built up in our tissues. It also improves our circulation and helps protect us from aches and pains. It is good for stress relief and for our general health/cardiovascular system. Overall, if you are suffering from neck or lower back pain, exercise can help you reduce it.
An interesting thing I’ve noticed in my work is that even if someone has a really bad computer setup causing them to sit in an awful posture, if that person moves every hour, they invariably don’t get the aches and pains their colleagues who don’t move and sit in the same position do get.
Furthermore, moving throughout your day keeps your mind fresh and helps you perform better at your job. Taking active micro breaks is definitely worth considering in your work day!
4. And Stress!
Stress, stress, stress. The silent killer. The thing in our life that can take everything that’s good and run it down.
Researchers have discovered that working under time pressures and deadlines have a significant association with the development of neck pain. They’ve also shown that if you are being managed by someone who has a poor leadership style, you’re also more likely to suffer from muscular aches and pains. Eina!
And lastly, if you are experiencing psychosocial stress, you are also more likely than your peers to be experiencing neck and shoulder pain.
Dealing with stress is not easy. It’s a process that requires learning new skills and looking at our life and situations in new and different ways. If you are suffering from stress, you owe it to yourself to find ways to reduce its detrimental affect on your life.
Ariens G.A.M., Bongers P.M., Hoogendoorn W.E., Houtman I.L.D., van der Wal G., van Mechelen W. 2001. “High quantitative job demands and low coworker support as risk factors for neck pain.” Spine 26 (17): 1896-1903
Bongers P.M., Ijmker S., van den Heuvel S., Blatter B.M. 2006. “Epidemiology of work related neck and upper limb problems: Psychosocial and personal risk factors (Part I) and effective interventions from a bio behavioural perspetive (Part II).” Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 16: 279-302.
Gawke J.C., Gorgievski M.J., van der Linden D. 2012. “Ofﬁce Work and Complaints of the Arms, Neck and Shoulders: The Role of Job Characteristics, Muscular Tension and Need for Recovery.” Journal of Occupational Health 54: 323–330.
Ferreira Jr M., Saldiva P.H.N. 2002. “computer-telephone interactive tasks: predictors of musculoskeletal disorders according to work analysis and workers’ perception.” Applied Ergonomics 33 (2): 147-153.
Fjell Y., Osterberg M., Alexanderson K., Karlqvist L., Bildt C. 2007. “Appraised leadership styles, psychosocial work factors, and musculoskeletal pain among public employees.” International Archive of Occupational and Environmental Health 81 (1): 19-30.
Are you an office worker suffering with neck pain? If so, you’re not alone. Office workers are one of the population groups most at risk of developing neck pain, with an incidence of around 55% in some countries.
If you are an unfortunate office worker suffering from neck pain, is there something that you can do yourself to reduce or prevent your neck pain rather than popping pills or going to see your OMT trained Physiotherapist?
The answer is, yes, of course there is!
The first and simplest things that you need to consider is where your monitor is positioned in relation to yourself on your desk (check our our desktop software designed to help you correct your computer ergonomics). A poor monitor position is one of the most common reasons why office workers suffer from neck pain associated with poor posture. It’s happily also one of the easiest things for to change to help improve poor posture that could be causing your neck pain.
Consider the following 4 monitor position scenarios. Do you see yourself in any of them? All of these poor monitor positions are high risk postures for creating neck pain.
In this scenario, your monitor (laptop or desktop computer screen) is positioned too low on your desk causing you to bend your neck for too long, straining your neck and resulting in neck pain. This is quite common, especially for people working on a laptop or tablet. Mobile computer devices are handy to have, but they all need assistive ergonomic devices to help you work in a safe posture. Read this post on correcting a low monitor position to help you correct this problem.
2. In this second scenario, your screen is positioned too high for you, causing you to raise your chin and compress the joints in the back of your neck causing you both neck pain and headaches. This monitor position will cause neck pain faster than any of the others and is one of the worst postures possible for a computer worker. This posture is common in people who are aware that a computer monitor often needs to be elevated, but are unaware of their own posture and what the correct position for one’s head and neck needs to be to prevent or reduce neck pain. Correct your position asap
4. In this last scenario, you are working a lot from notes/papers/files and don’t use a document holder. This means that you are looking down too often during the day and this constant bending of your neck puts you at a very high risk of developing neck pain.
Alternatively, you’re working a lot from notes and have positioned them on your desk between your keyboard and monitor causing you to push your monitor too far away and take a poking chin posture.
Both of these postures will create neck pain and possibly headaches.