9 to 5: How to Relieve Neck and Back Pain While Working at a Desk
Working at a desk for eight hours a day can wreak havoc on your neck and back. Here's how to relieve distracting neck and back pain while at work.
It’s commonplace to say that work is a pain in the neck or a pain in the back. Unfortunately, more people mean that literally. You might not think that sitting at a desk all day isn’t bad for you, but it can be detrimental to your health. Experts have started to compare sitting all day to smoking. It can lower your lifespan and quality of life. Sitting all day also makes it harder to lose weight and can cause neck and back pain. How can you reduce neck and back pain when working at a desk all day? Read on to find out the top tips and exercises to help you cope with neck and back issues at work. Why Do You Have Neck and Back Pain? People often ask why they have back and neck pain when all they’re doing is working at a desk. It’s not strenuous work. At least that’s what they think. Your body still has to work to hold your head upright in a certain position. You still have to keep your back straight. You still have to focus on your computer screen and reach for the mouse to get the computer to function properly. That takes some physical work to go with mental work. What happens is that those repetitive movements can put strain on the body if you’re not properly aligned with your workstation. For example, if you sit at a high desk and you work on a laptop that forces you to look down a lot, you’ll place strain on your neck muscles to hold your neck at a certain angle. After a while, your neck will get sore because you’re overusing the same muscles. It’s a type of repetitive movement injury. With back pain, one of the most common culprits is your posture. If you sit hunched over your keyboard, you’re placing pressure on your spine. It’s a similar issue if you sit slouched in your chair. What Can You Do When You’re Working at a Desk? You might think that you’re too young to be dealing with neck and back pain. When you have a day job, these aches and pains can hit you at any age. Now that you have a better understanding of what causes neck and back pain, here are the top tips and exercises you can do to reduce the impact of sitting at your desk all day. Ergonomics Matter A big reason why you have neck and back pain is that your body isn’t properly aligned with your workstation. Most people try to adapt to the workstation. We need a mindset shift and start thinking that the workstation needs to adapt to you. Your chair height should be at a point where your knees are level or a little lower than your hips. Your feet should also be flat on the floor. When your back is completely against the back of the chair, there should be a little room behind the back of the knee. The width of two to four fingers will work well. Now check your keyboard. Are your shoulders hunched up when you’re typing? You want your shoulders to be relaxed and lower. Your wrists should lie flat and be a little lower than your elbows, with your elbows right at your side. Your monitor should be right at eye level to reduce strain on your neck. You may have replaced your monitor with your phone, which causes you to look down at your screen throughout the day. This will put a lot of strain on your neck and you need to limit how much you look down at your phone. When you sit at your desk, you want to have both feet flat on the floor. It may be comfortable to keep your legs crossed all day, but that will do damage to your hips and your back. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed and your back supported by the back of the chair. You also want to keep everything you need within arm’s reach. A sudden twist or turn to get something can cause neck or back pain when you least expect it. Exercises for Working at a Desk The most important thing you can do for yourself is to take frequent breaks. A lot of workers want to power through their work and not bother with breaks, even skipping lunch. Not only can this improve productivity, but it can also make a big difference in your physical health, too. Try these exercises during your next work break. Take a Walk Set an alarm for every 30 minutes and get up and go for a short walk. This will help ease stiffness and tight muscles that are related to back pain. At lunchtime and after work, schedule longer walks. Walking is great for your overall physical and mental health and shouldn’t be overlooked. Give Yourself a Bear Hug Take a moment to give yourself a big hug. Cross your arms by putting your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. Take a big deep breath and exhale to release the tension in your back right between the shoulder blades. Chin Tucks Slowly lean your head forward, tucking your chin. Hold that position for about 5 seconds. Now, slowly raise your head and look up towards the ceiling. Again, hold that position for about 5 seconds. Neck Stretch Gently place your hand on the opposite side of your head. Place a small amount of pressure to tilt your head to the side. Hold this for about 5-10 seconds and repeat on the other side. Combat Neck and Back Pain Working at a Desk Working at a desk can be a serious pain in the neck or back. It’s become a serious health issue, but fortunately, there are ways to fight against it. It’s up to you to make sure that you have a workstation that works for you and you take frequent breaks. If you still have neck or back issues, contact us today to schedule an appointment.