NeckPainIs work giving you a pain in the neck?  Or maybe your pain is lower down the back or perhaps between the shoulder blades!!

Within the work environment many people spend long periods of time seated at the computer and then often go home and spend some of their leisure time also at the computer.

As a result people of all ages are experiencing aches and pain in the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, wrists, elbows and hands.

Remaining in the same position for extended periods of time, being in awkward postures (for example cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder) and repeating the same movements over and over can lead to injury or weakness of muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues.

Early Warning Signs

It is important that the early warning signs the body gives that it is under stress are not ignored.

Pain or discomfort in your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders or neck, weakness in your grip strength, numbness, tingling or pins and needles in your arms or hands and headaches are all warning signs that should not be ignored.

Another early warning sign that frequently occurs is a loss of the range of motion in the neck. You may notice this first when driving particularly when turning your neck to reverse the car.

To check your range of motion yourself stand in front of a mirror and turn your head as far as you can to the right then turn your head as far as you can to the left and compare that to the right.

How Can A Physiotherapist Help?

Physiotherapists are trained to assess your posture as well as evaluate your work environment. In addition to assessing your symptoms and treating any injuries already sustained a physiotherapist is able to advise you on such things as your posture, the set up of your workstation, your work habits and techniques.

Workstation Set Up

The workstation environment is an essential consideration to maintain good seated and standing posture.  Some points to consider are:

  • Ensure you are seated correctly with your back supported (for some people this may mean using a lumbar support).
  • Buttocks should be right to the back of the chair, with your knees bent to a 90˚ angle to be at the same level or slightly lower than your hips.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor (or a footrest)
  • Shoulders should be relaxed with your arms kept close to your side or resting on the armrests.
  • Elbows are bent to about a 90˚ angle with your forearms parallel to the floor or sloping slightly down and your wrists should be straight
  • The computer screen should be set about an arm’s length away and at a height so that the top half of the screen is level to with eye height.
  • Keep your mouse close by to limit reaching out as this puts strain on the neck and arm.

Work Habits

Improving the regular actions completed during a work day can have a significant impact on achieving better health at work.  Some suggestions are as follows:

  • Use computer ergonomic aids such as document holders to place your document near the screen so you don’t need to constantly turn to the side or look down to the desk.
  • When moving the mouse the movement should come from the shoulder not the wrist.
  • Limit continuous computer use and take a break every 30 minutes.  Use the break to do some neck, wrist and shoulder stretches.
  • Focus on a distant point to give your eyes a rest.
  • Get up and walk around every hour.
  • Maintain your general fitness
  • Manage the stresses of work and study with a balance of exercise, relaxation and other stress management approaches

Stretches and Mobility

The following exercises can be completed while seated at your desk.

Neck retraction

  • Straighten up your lower back and pelvis (sit tall)
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and down
  • Gently tuck your chin in
  • Gently draw your head back, sliding your chin back horizontally keeping your nose pointing straight ahead and your neck long (don’t tip the head backwards) 

Upper Trapezius Stretch

  • Sit on left hand, palm down
  • Gently tip right ear towards right shoulder
  • Use hand over top of head to apply slight tension to stretch
  • Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 5 times a day.
  • Repeat for other side

Levator Scapula Stretch

  • Sit on left hand, palm down.
  • Turn head to right and look down towards your armpit.
  • Use right hand over top of head to gently apply traction to the
  • Stretch in a downwards direction.
  • Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Do 5 times a day.
  • Repeat for other side

If you experience any form of ergonomic problem, Physiotherapy may be able to assist you Please Contact Us or Phone 9377 2522