The Misery Of Office Chair Neck Pain: 6 Simple Tips To Avoid It

Neck Pain

The Misery Of Neck Pain In An Office Chair

If you work long hours in an office chair chances are you will suffer neck pain at some stage, in fact for many people it's a constant problem.

Why does this happen and what can you do to minimize and avoid it?

To a large extent neck and shoulder pain in the office is the result of a number of bad habits as well as not taking simple avoidance measures.

Without realizing it they creep up on us and inflict pain, in fact left unchecked these painful experiences can develop into more serious problems involving disc and vertebrae damage.

Lack of movement is one of the biggest causes of neck discomfort. You sit working away at something and become immersed in it and without realizing it you have been staring at your screen for the past hour without moving your head at all. As a result neck and shoulder muscles end up inactive and so start to tire and ache.

And if you continue long enough those muscles really start aching and remind you it's time to move them.

It's hardly surprising. When you consider the human head weighs between 8 and 12 pounds, imagine holding a weight like that in your hands without moving your arms, it wouldn't be long before your arms started aching would it?

Simply being aware of your body and making sure to move your head from side to side regularly will help reduce discomfort.

Craning your neck forwards is another major cause of neck pain. If you look around an office you will see people doing this all the time and it's so easy to correct.

When people crane the head forwards it's usually because their screen isn't close enough. Observe yourself, are you doing this without realizing it? It's very simple to fix, move your screen closer so you can read it comfortably without the need to lean forwards.

Cradling a phone between your head and shoulder is very bad for the neck, shoulder muscles and vertebrae too.

Yes, we often need to make notes while on a call and wedging your phone in this abnormal way is quick and easy. However it's also very bad for you so look at alternatives, maybe using a speakerphone or if this is a problem what about a headset?

Get up out of your chair and take frequent short breaks. A simple change of posture at least once an hour will help keep those muscles more active and healthy.

Perform short exercise routines regularly throughout the day. This doesn't have to be anything fancy, here are some ideas for quick office neck and shoulder exercises you can do.

Lastly, you may need to replace your office chair if it could be contributing to your neck problems. This is particularly true of chairs with fixed arms because the chances of those arms being in the right position aren't that great.

Frequently you will find they force your arms upwards placing the shoulder muscles under stress. Adjustable arms allow proper support where your shoulders are in their natural relaxed position. Here is a quick summary of quality ergonomic office chairs which will give you great whole body support.

So let's quickly summarize the key causes of neck and shoulder pain in the office and what you can do to help.

  • Inactivity, staring at your screen for long periods, remember to move your head frequently
  • Craning the neck forwards, simply adjusting screen position will cure this
  • Cradling you phone between head and shoulder is a very bad habit, try hands-free or a headset
  • Get up out of your chair and take frequent breaks
  • Perform short simple exercise routines to keep muscles supple and toned
  • Think about replacing your office chair if it's not supporting you correctly

Why Poor Phoning Habits In An Office Chair Are A Pain In The Neck

Despite all the new advances in technology one of the key causes of neck pain when using an office chair doesn’t look like disappearing anytime soon.

Yes the humble telephone incorrectly used is capable of creating a lot of neck problems both now and in the future.

How does this happen? You see it all the time, people trying to take calls and write at the same time, what do they do? They wedge the phone between their ear and shoulder and contort their neck into a horribly unnatural position, this places excessive strain on the neck and shoulder muscles as well as the vertebrae in the neck.

Invariably people always take calls on the same side so they don't even give their neck a chance to balance up the distortion this creates.

And the problem has got worse as mobiles are more commonplace and smaller than ever and so encourage this bad habit.

At least with a hard wired office phone it is quick and natural to switch to speakerphone and make writing notes and taking the call easier, although for confidentiality and annoying colleagues nearby in a large office this isn't always practical.

Fortunately many modern mobiles let you take calls via a speaker and they nearly all come with a cheap earpiece and microphone so there really isn't any excuse for sitting screwed up in your office chair cradling your phone and trying to take notes at the same time.

And if the supplied earpiece and mic are really poor replacing them with a better quality headset with built in microphone won’t cost you that much.

So, if you are a neck cradler when taking calls you need to break the habit and consciously become aware of when you are abusing your body like this. Fortunately if you do it frequently enough your body will tell you by inflicting a good dose of neck pain on you.

Break the habit now before you do any lasting damage and start running up chiropractor's bills, for as the years go by you'll be glad you did.


Sloppy Habits Working On A Laptop Can Result In Back Pain And Posture Issues

Laptops have been a great boon to working virtually anywhere, their portability means they can be fired up and used pretty much wherever you are and whenever you want.

However, this added flexibility comes at a cost as they aren't ideal for healthy working. They let us get lazy in our working comfort and unwittingly encourage a number of bad habits which if left unchecked will result in back and neck pain and discomfort frequently leading to long term health implications.

You see people working badly at their laptop, resting it on their knees in crowded waiting areas, hunched over them on the daily commute by train, and in the house slumped on a sofa with their backs rounded and necks craning forward.

Sometimes it just isn't practical to work in ideal conditions on a laptop, nonetheless a lot of the time it is. Wherever possible they should be used on a flat work surface like a desk, table or worktop with a good quality chair.

Even then because of their small size the screen display can be hard to set at the right height and the simple solution is to use a laptop holder. These devices allow your portable PC to be set at the right height and angle for optimal working.

Depending on how it is designed it may be necessary to use an external keyboard where the holder obscures laptop's built in keyboard.

There are many different designs of laptop holder and this article discusses some of the more popular models of these laptop accessories to help you work more comfortably.

And if you're looking for the ultimate seating solution for wireless working this chair is perfect with or without a desk.


Are You Aware Of How You Are Sitting In Your Office Chair?

If you study people’s postures when you are out and about you will often find it’s easy to spot those who work at a PC all day.

They are the ones who often carry a certain stiffness in the neck and shoulders as well as restricted lateral movement. The most common cause of this is usually poor positioning relative the desk and VDU screen and also not taking sufficient breaks during the day's work.

Whilst these symptoms are often easy to spot in others, they aren't so obvious in ourselves and it's only when we stand in front of a mirror we begin to see we are burdened by the same problems. Although shoulder and neck pain act as a timely reminder from our body that something we are doing is not helping our body's well-being and comfort.

So how do we become more aware of how we are sitting and what can be done to correct bad habits?

Assuming you have your office chair properly adjusted next make sure you are addressing your workspace correctly. Key to this is the relationship between you and your monitor ensuring you are properly set up.

Here are some vital points:

Screen Height – your eyes need to be set at or slightly below the topmost menu bar on you screen.

Screen Angle – monitor should be angled slightly backwards such that your line of site is square to it.

Screen Alignment – body, keyboard and monitor should be centered together. Imagine a line starting from your nose through the middle of your keyboard's spacebar and finishing in the center of your screen.

Screen Distance – as a broad rule of thumb the screen should be approximately an arm's length away. This will vary from user to user depending on eye sight and body size, make sure you can clearly read on screen text clearly while keeping your back in good contact and supported by your chair back, avoiding leaning forward.

Although it's probably easier to set up a flat panel monitor than an old bulky CRT monitor it still isn't always easy to get things just right. An LCD monitor maybe a lot lighter nonetheless it's still a lump of equipment sitting on your desk which will rarely be moved allowing bad posture habits to set in.

Screen height can be particularly awkward with the stand height often being fixed and frequently too low. You can improvise and build it up with books however it doesn't look very pretty.

The best answer is to invest in an LCD monitor arm, the design and flexibility of modern VDU arms allows us to position our screen very precisely, fine tuning it until finding perfect positioning.

There are additional benefits as well, when you need clear desk space to carry out other tasks, or you want to discuss something you have on screen with a colleague or visitor, an LCD monitor arm allows effortless movement of the screen to where it needs to be.

I'll return to this topic in a future post to look into further ways of helping posture and comfort in the office.


Is Your Office Lighting Causing You Working Discomfort?

An area which is often overlooked is office lighting and if poorly set up can frequently create a lot of problems with screen glare.

If your work space is poorly lit you may find you suffer from eye strain, headaches or back and neck pain caused by putting your body in awkward positions because of inadequate lighting.

Where you work near to a window it's important to have your office chair correctly positioned, you shouldn't sit with your back to the window as bright sunlight on your VDU can make it unreadable.

Instead, make sure you are facing the window to avoid direct sunlight hitting your screen. Where it is unavoidable and you have to have a window behind you, look to fitting a window blind so you can control the amount of natural light entering your work area.

If your office has fluorescent lighting it’s important to fit a good quality diffuser to the fitting which has been designed to remove glare and spread light evenly over the work area. Where this isn't possible you will often find adding task lighting can help to illuminate the desk area removing shadows and giving a more even light distribution.

Another way of tackling this problem is by fitting an anti-glare screen to your VDU screen, these simply clip over your display screen and have polarizing filters designed to cut out glare problems.

Steelcase has an interesting article on office lighting and you will also find further information on anti-glare screens here.

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