As physiotherapists we see first-hand the consequences of working from home on people’s physical health. It’s been nearly a year that many of office workers, teachers and students are working or schooling from home. Aches & pains and zoom fatigue are all so real. Working from home can cause mental & physical fatigue. We hear a lot of complaints about neck, shoulder and back pain from our clients. Decreased activity level & mobility, working in smaller space and less than optimal work station ergonomics all put extra pressure on neck, shoulder and back area and cause headaches.
People who already suffer from neck and back pain are more likely to suffer from neck and back pain. Lack of proper work setting like not having access to an ergonomic chair or keyboard, using a laptop instead of desk top and smaller monitors pushes workers to improper postures and run the risk of increasing strain on our neck and back muscles. Prolonged sitting may also cause hip tightness, shortening of hamstring muscles, and general weakness of postural and core muscles. Muscle imbalance and weakness ultimately results in worsening neck pain or back pain.
Neck pain is a very common complaint in office workers; remote work has simply underscored this already prevalent concern. Increased use of computers, game consoles, tablets and mobile phones increases the possibility of developing rounded and forward head posture.
Although neck pain caused by our use of technology is very common in younger generation, but elderly populations are not exempt. More and more of our mature adults use technology gadgets like laptops, tablets and other hand held devices to communicate with friends and loved ones. In addition to the postural strain, the age related joint stiffness and reduced range of motion can cause additional neck pain and headache.
The key to preventing neck pain and headaches originating from neck structures is maintaining mobility, increasing strength and promoting proper posture. After all, our bodies are not designed for sedentary position. This can easily be achieved with regular neck and upper back stretching, simple exercises, proper ergonomic set up and incorporating movement. The focus of this blog post is mainly on stretching and strengthening exercises for neck & upper back.
How to Prevent Neck Pain While Working From Home
- Move frequently to prevent stiffness
- Sit up or stand up tall every 15 minutes for approximately 5 to 10 seconds
- Use an ergonomic workstation
- Use a keyboard and mouse with laptops and tablets to reduce strain
- Use a larger monitor if possible
- Invest in an ergonomic chair- Read our blog on how to choose an ergonomic chair
- Keep breathing; whether you stretch to prevent pain or workout, proper breathing facilitates muscle relaxation. , inhale as you exert and exhale as you relax.
- Apply heat or cold for 10 minutes to sooth aches & pains.
- Perform stretching and exercises two times per day for 8 repetitions each, keep breathing and avoid fast movements. Slow movements allow the neck structures to adapt to the movement and prevents injury
- Read more in physiotherapy guide for neck pain
Unhealthy & improper posture causes muscle imbalance and weakness in neck & back area. When the proper length & strength of the neck and upper back muscles are maintained through stretching and simple daily exercises, the chance of injury is reduced and pain is prevented. Proper movement maintains the mobility of neck muscles and spinal joints. Exercise improves blood circulation to the muscles, ligaments, nerves and other neck structures, Therefore not only reduces fatigue resulting from physical strains of neck & upper back muscles, it prevents neck pain and headaches.
The Best Six Neck Pain Exercises
These exercises help treat existing pain and reduce the risk for injury. Daily neck exercises are easy to do while sitting on your chair and can be incorporated during your work hours.
- Chin Tuck- Tuck your chin while keeping the chest elevated.
- Ear to Shoulder Stretch-Keep ear lined up with the shoulder and bend your head to the side, lowering your ear towards the same shoulder, repeat for the other side.
- Round Upper Back Stretch- Bend your head forward (chin to chest) while rounding your upper back and stretching your arms forward.
- Doorway Stretch- Stand in a corner or doorway, place your hands around shoulder height on the walls or doorway frame, push your chest forward until you feel the stretch
- Trunk Rotation- While sitting on a chair, rotate from mid back and grasp the back of your chair, repeat for the other side. Make sure your hip does not lift off the chair.
- Shoulder Blade Squeeze- Squeeze shoulder blades together while trying to slide them down towards your lower back.
Use these stretches to help maintain a healthy posture and strengthen these important neck & upper back muscles during your work hours.
Try these exercises and if you do not see improvement in your neck pain, don’t let pain get in the way of your daily activities or physical health. Be sure to visit a physiotherapist or a chiropractor. Find More Exercises and Support on Physiomobility Website
What to Expect from Physiotherapy for Neck Pain
When you schedule an in-person or online physiotherapy or chiropractic appointment, an assigned practitioner will perform a complimentary screening and assessment. Your practitioner will measure your baseline strength and discuss your current mobility and symptoms, pain or discomfort, and personal goals. The practitioner also looks at your posture and will work with you to develop a plan to achieve your goals and reduce your pain, teaches you how to strengthen your muscles over time. Your physical therapist or chiropractor will teach you how to properly use basic and advanced stretches for neck pain or upper back pain and how to improve the quality of your day which in turn improves the quality of your work.
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