Is Working From Home a Pain in Your Neck?

Is Working From Home a Pain in Your Neck?

There’s a lot to love about technology, including how it has made working from home easier than ever. Unfortunately, it’s also led to more and more people struggling to find relief for neck pain and back pain when they don’t use proper posture.

Neck pain isn’t a new problem. But in recent years, Dr. Arien Smith has seen an increase in people searching for solutions to neck pain at his practice, Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey

If you’ve noticed an uptick in neck pain since you’ve been spending more time in your home office, here’s what could be to blame and how to find relief.

It starts with your setup

Whether you work from home a few hours each week or full time, the way you set up your workspace matters. That’s because poor posture completely throws off the muscle balance in your body, leading you to overuse some muscles and underuse others. This is often less of a problem in a professional workspace.

An office environment is designed with ergonomics in mind — your desk, chair, and computer meet specific alignment parameters with your health and safety in mind, including injury prevention. These general guidelines reduce physical strain and discomfort by keeping your:

However, at-home setups often include the kitchen table, the couch, or even your bed! In these positions, it doesn’t take long before you experience increased stress on your cervical spine, neck strain, and muscle tightness in your shoulders, back, neck, and chest. But it doesn’t stop there.

Over time, having consistently poor posture can also cause degenerative changes in your cervical spine, including pinched nerves and arthritis.

Treating your neck right when working from home

Ready for some good news? You can work from home without it causing a pain in your neck. Even if you don’t have a dedicated office space, you can still safeguard your muscles, joints, and spine.

Start with a good foundation

When it comes to good posture and ergonomics, it all starts with the right foundation. It’s time to ditch your sofa or recliner and get a firm chair with plenty of back support. And you need to work at a table, desk, or counter. 

In an ideal world, an adjustable office chair is usually best. If this isn’t an option, choose a seat that supports your spinal curves and allows you to sit with your thighs parallel to the floor and with your feet flat against the floor or a footrest.

Think about placement

Good ergonomics should keep your body in more natural positions, reducing unnecessary strain. That means keeping your mouse within easy reach, and it should be on the same surface as your keyboard. 

This surface should allow you to work with your upper arms close to your body with straight wrists and hands slightly below your elbows. If you’re finding that you’re reaching or hunching your shoulders as you work, reevaluate your position.

Dr. Smith also recommends using keyboard shortcuts whenever possible to reduce mouse use.

Your monitor location matters

Place your monitor directly in front of you, approximately an arm’s length away. Next, position the top of the screen at or just below eye level. You can lower your monitor an inch or two if you wear bifocals.

Working on a laptop? Tilting your head to look down at your machine is a surefire way to get a pain in the neck. Instead, use a laptop stand that raises the screen to eye level and prevents hunching.

Also make sure the brightest light source in your work area is to the side of your monitor to reduce eye strain and glare.

Move your body

Working from home, you sometimes forget to take breaks, but they’re more important than ever. Not only do you need an occasional break from looking at your monitor to avoid eye strain, but sitting for long periods can lead to bad posture and body mechanics.

Take breaks from sitting every 30 minutes for 1-2 minutes. Try doing some simple stretches, taking a quick walk around the room, or even doing some jumping jacks to get your heart pumping. While you work, follow the 20-20-20 rule — looking away from your screen every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Has working from home given you a pain in the neck? Schedule a consultation at the Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey location nearest you to find relief.

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