Stress That Causes Neck Pain
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 as part of our fight/flight response. This position activates and fatigues the muscles in the neck and upper back leading to the muscle guarding described above.
How-To Relieve Stress
Stress management techniques can have a significant effect on reducing neck pain while working. Setting realistic due dates and breaking projects into smaller, actionable steps will help you avoid the pressure of working against the deadline. Adopting a daily mindfulness meditation practice is a great way to step back from your work and decrease stress.
If you tend to experience headaches that are associated with postural strain, you can benefit from performing stretching exercises and a positional release technique for the suboccipital muscles. To perform the positional release technique, youll need a small towel roll or a couple of tennis balls in a sock.
Lie on your back in a quiet, dark room where you will not be interrupted for 5-10 minutes. Place the towel roll or sock with tennis balls under the base of your skull allowing it to press gently against the suboccipital muscles. As you lie in this position, focus your breathing as you take slow, deep breaths for 5-10 minutes.
How Position Causes Pain In Your Head And Neck
Any time you overuse a part of your body or maintain an awkward position, it is likely to cause pain and tightness. With “tech neck,” youre continually or repeatedly bending your neck forward with your head’s added weight to view a device.
You may develop further problems like muscle imbalances or irritation and inflammation of tendons in the neck area.
Studies have examined the weight of the head in various positions. An adult head is quite a heavy load, it measures about ten to twelve pounds. Thats when its upright with your head balanced over your cervical spine, and your chin parallel to the floor. This is a healthy, neutral posture that puts little strain on your neck.
When you tilt your head forward, it is no longer in line with your cervical spine. It increases the force on your neck – your head feels like it weighs as much as fifty or sixty pounds! A study found that the greater your neck flexion the more stress it creates on your neck.
The study further indicated that the position overworks your cervical spine, neck, and upper back muscles – they become fatigued, sore, and stiff, leading to neck pain, as well as upper back and shoulder pain.
Take Breaks Every Hour Or So
Annoyance is caused by allowing yourself hours of sitting in the same position without taking any break from it.
Neck pain is most severe when you are trying to sleep because it is taking a strain on your back, which causes throat discomfort.
Pain in the throat can also happen if you attempt to reach too high above your head which hurts the spine and throat muscles.
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Signs Of Neck And Shoulder Pain
Dr. Delavaux says that individuals should pay attention to the following signs of neck pain:
- Pain thats often worsened by holding your head in one position for a prolonged period
- Muscle tightness and/or spasms
Additionally, he notes that you should be aware of the following signs of shoulder pain:
- Inability to use the shoulder or move your arm away from your body
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately and see if they offer in-person or virtual visits, advises Dr. Delavaux. Dont wait too long, as this may worsen the underlying problem of the pain.
Use A Separate Keyboard And Mouse Or Invest In A Separate Screen/monitor
When you work on a laptop for an extended period of time, it is recommended to do one of two things: 1) Use an external keyboard and mouse and properly position your laptop screen at eye level or 2) Use an external monitor at eye level and position your laptop keyboard at a height that allows your shoulders and arms to relax. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle, tucked close to your body, and your wrists should be in a neutral position when typing. This posture helps keep you from rounding your shoulders and pulling your neck muscles.
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When To See Your Doctor
Patient-doctor communication is important – make sure you provide the details about your symptoms and ask about all of your concerns during your appointment.
Evidence supports seeing your doctor if you have neck pain with:
Severe or worsening pain or headaches
Continued pain after a course of conservative treatment
Weakness, numbness, loss of feeling, or tingling in the arms and hands
Pain that makes it hard to sleep
Existing health problems that involve the neck
Interested in getting relief for tech neck or other musculoskeletal problems? Start by completing our brief assessment.
Ergonomic Changes For Reducing Neck Strain
Ergonomics or efficient positioning of your work area makes it easier to do your job and at the same time lessens the stress on your body. Whether you work from home or in an office, proper ergonomics also helps prevent and lessen tech neck.
If you have neck pain, it may be related to your work area organization, computer monitor position, or placement of other items. There are many ways to organize your workspace ergonomically.
Heres a neck-related ergonomic change you can try:
Your monitor position may be an issue, but so may your laptop. Using your laptop causes you to look down to view the display, resulting in a forward head position and posture and an unhealthy curve of your spine.
The solution is to use a docking station, laptop stand, or even a stack of books to elevate your laptop to eye level. By doing so, you change your neck from a flexed to a neutral position and eliminate the forward curvature of your spine. Note: You will also need to use an external keyboard.
There are many components of ergonomics – Goodpaths musculoskeletal health program includes workspace ergonomic recommendations.
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Ways To Keep Writing From Being A Literal Pain In The Neck
High-maintenance clients, looming deadlines, and late payments are just a few of the ways making a living as a freelancer can be a pain in the neck. But, even though freelancers have the freedom to work wherever they want, that pain in the neck can come from other sources: a keyboard too high, a screen too low, or a chair with too little back support.
According to the London Pain Clinic, more than 87 percent of computer workers suffer from acute to chronic neck and shoulder pain. If you can relate, poor posture, increased tension, and repetitive movements are most often to blame. You should always check with a medical professional regarding persistent pain. In the meantime, however, use the tips below to give your workspace an ergonomic makeover to help relieve what ails you.
Dedicate a space
People often think they dont need a well set up workstation at home and will use what they have already, hanging out on the sofa, in bed, or working at the kitchen table, said Shari Arribere, occupational therapist, certified industrial ergonomist, and director of Ergonomics At Your Fingertips.
These makeshift home offices can lead to a Repetitive Strain Injury . An RSI may barely register as pain at first. However, once pain hits, the injury can be difficult to ditch. For one less headache later in your career, set up a designated place to work sooner rather than later.
Build for your body
To customize your chair:
Limit your laptop time
I have a hunch
Proper Office Chair For Neck Pain
It is important to invest in a proper office chair, especially if you work mostly in a sitting position. There are thousands of models on the market, but ergonomic chairs offer the most adjustment flexibility and correct postural support.
How-To Setup Your Office Chair
Your office chair should have a full back that extends from the seat of the chair to your shoulders or above. This will give the appropriate low back support to prevent slouching that can lead to a forward head posture. If the lumbar region of the chair doesnt have enough built-in support, a full back allows you to use a small pillow or lumbar roll.
The arms of the chair should be able to adjust to the support the natural position of your elbows when your arms are at your sides. You want to avoid having the elbows too high or too low to prevent postural strain in the neck and upper back muscles. Virtually all office chairs have adjustable seat height, but it is important to make sure that the chair height fits well with your desk height. Other chair options can include adjustments for tilt, seat depth, and seat height to improve the fit of your chair and to prevent postural strain.
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Desk Setup For Improved Neck Comfort
Your desk is a critical component of your workstation, but it can contribute to your neck pain if it isnt adjusted properly. 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 will compensate by shrugging your shoulders slightly to elevate your forearms, wrists, and hands to the appropriate level. After a while, your neck muscles will fatigue and begin to spasm. When the neck muscles become tight, the tension often translates to the smaller suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull. This can lead to a headache that starts at the base of your skull and progresses to the front as your symptoms worsen.
If the desk is too low, youll be forced to flex your trunk to use the keyboard. Working with your trunk flexed forward 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 leading to muscles spasms, neck pain, and headaches.
How-To Fix Your Desk Setup
Take Plenty Of Breaks
Its easy to get in the zone at work and forget to take breaks, but we all need them.
Taking a break every once in a while not only resets our mental capacity, but it also gives us a chance to reset our physical bodies.
Every 30 minutes to an hour, get moving by:
- Taking a stroll around the office
- Visit the restroom
- Refill your coffee cup
Do whatever it takes to get those moving breaks inset a timer or leave post-it note reminders near your computer.
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Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping on your back helps maintain your spines natural curves. You can use a thinner pillow in this position than you would when sleeping on your side. Your head position should be only slightly raised so that its at a similar angle as when youre standing.
Can Sitting At A Desk Cause Shoulder Pain
Doctors may focus on neck and back pain caused by poor posture, but sitting at a desk can indeed cause shoulder pain.
Oftentimes shoulder pain is overlooked because the pain can be disguised as coming from the back or neck. Working at a desk can create a change in balance to the shoulder, resulting in pain in that area.
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Causes Of Neck And Shoulder Pain
Dr. Delavaux explains that neck and shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including but not limited to:
- Poor posture, muscle imbalances, weakness and misalignments
- Muscle strains
- Poor sleeping positions
So, its important to remember that even the slightest of changes in your posture, eye level and mobility can make the biggest of impacts, recaps Dr. Delavaux. But as always, the best way to move forward is with an open and honest dialogue and evaluation with your health care team to create your personalized care plan.
What Causes Shoulder Pain From Sitting At A Desk
Americans sit at desks more than any time in history, and we are paying the price physically.
Shoulder and back muscles are often weaker than our frontal body muscles because of:
- Extended sitting
- Repeated phone use
- Sedentary lifestyles
All of these are factors that keep the rotator cuff in the shoulder from properly working, resulting in strain and discomfort.
In addition, repetitive strain injury , also known as cumulative trauma disorder, can be a cause of chronic shoulder pain. This condition is caused by frequent, extended, and repetitive movements that can put pressure on the tendons and muscles of the upper body.
Some common movements that can cause RSI include:
- Typing on a computer
- Using a computer mouse
- Awkward posture or sitting position
Shoulder pain from sitting at a desk can also be masked by neck or back pain. Thats why its extremely important to have a proper assessment to find out where the pain is coming from.
The physical therapists at PRO~PT are specially trained to perform a proper and thorough assessment to determine what is causing your pain. Treating the and not just the location will give you the lasting relief you are longing for.
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Stretches That Can Help Ease Back Or Neck Pain
- Butterfly Wing Stretch
- Begin with hands behind your head and elbows out to the side. Slowly bring elbows toward the center while keeping hands on head and then return to starting position while also squeezing shoulder blades together. Then repeat. You should feel a stretch across your chest with elbows apart and may feel a stretch in mid back with elbows together. Remember to keep your shoulders down. Hold each position for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 repetitions each direction.
- Chin Tuck
- Begin by sitting up straight. While keeping eyes level with horizon, pull chin back underneath your head. You may feel a stretch in back of neck near the base of your skull. Hold position for 5-10 seconds then relax. Perform 10 repetitions.
- Cat/Camel Stretches
- Begin on hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under hips. Try to arch your back up toward the ceiling, then reverse by trying to sag your back toward the floor. Try to feel the movement throughout your entire spine. Perform 10-20 repetitions. Movement should be slow and controlled.
- Lower Body Rotation
- Begin lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Keep shoulders and upper back flat on floor while allowing both knees to fall to the side. Only rotate your knees to a comfortable position or stretch and hold for 2-3 breaths then switch knees to opposite side. Perform 10 repetitions to each side. A gentle stretch should be felt in your lower back during this exercise.
Set Up Your Desk Properly
Most homes are not set up to have child size desks available. When picking your area for e-learning, make sure it is the appropriate size for your child. Sit with feet flat on the floor and pick a stable surface to sit on. Adjust the height of your desk or table so the child can look straight ahead at the computer screen. You can use a stack of books to raise the height of the laptop. Try to have forearms, chin and thighs all be in flat lines when sitting at your designated desk space.
Example of setting up your childs desk
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Adjust Your Monitor Height
For students that spend a lot of time at a computer, using a monitor that is positioned too high increases their likelihood of neck pain. Ideally, the top of the computer screen should be the same height as your eyes. Continually looking at a monitor higher than your eyes could prove to be a pain in the neck!
Many of us feel that studying is a pain in the neck. But, with a few simple changes, it doesnt have to result in a pain in the neck!
Dr K Daniel Riew On Technology
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You see it everywhere. In homes and offices, while walking down the street, riding the bus, or standing in line. Tech neck, the act of stressing muscles while using phones, tablets, and computers, resulting in neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and soreness, is a problem thats getting worse.
Last year, Americans spent a daily average of 5 hours and 53 minutes with digital media, including 3 hours, 17 minutes a day on non-voice activities on mobile devices a jump of more than an hour since 2013, according to eMarketer.
The result? Headaches, neck spasms, and creaky shoulder joints, caused by holding ones neck still for long periods, says K. Daniel Riew, M.D., director of cervical spine surgery and co-director of spine surgery in the department of orthopedic surgery at the NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine Hospital. Here, Dr. Riew breaks down the causes and symptoms of tech neck and offers ways to correctly and safely align the body while using mobile phones, computers, and other digital media devices.
So how should you sit? A better way to sit is with the chair reclining 25-30 degrees with a good lumbar support to prevent slouching. In this position, the discs in the back, as well as the neck, are subjected to much lower forces than in an upright position, and the muscles in the back of the neck no longer have to contract to hold your head up.
Dr. K. Daniel Riew
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