Neck pain while working from home?

22 May Neck pain while working from home?

Are you suffering from neck pain while working from home?

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The current global pandemic has caused considerable social upheaval and caused many of us to work from home. As a result, we have seen an influx of patients with neck and back pain associated with undesirable workstation setups and reduced physical activity due to the cessation of sport and gym activity.  This blog will focus on the ergonomic factors of your home workstation setup and discuss potential solutions to common problems related to neck pain.

 

What are common neck pain symptoms?

 

Here are some common neck pain and arm symptoms and how they relate to ergonomic features.

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1.Pain at the base of your skull

Is your chin protruding forward to read the screen? You might need to consider the positioning of your screen.

Screen height

  • The top of the monitor should be equal with eye height
  • This will minimise strain on the neck muscles

 

Screen distance

  • Roughly arm’s length away from the face (this will vary depending on screen size)
  • It’s ideal to minimise forward head posture, visual strain and glare

 

2.Achy pain in between your shoulder blades

You might be over-reaching for your keyboard or mouse.

Keyboard (and mouse) position

  • Centrally aligned
  • Positioned back from the desk’s edge so that forearms can rest on the desk
    • This minimises neck and shoulder muscle activity
    • Your chair might need to be moved in, closer to the desk, to facilitate this position
  • The mouse should be positioned adjacent to the keyboard, as close as possible

 

3.Pain through the tops of your shoulders (upper traps)

Your desk may be too high (or chair too low), elevating your shoulders and causing increased shoulder and neck muscle tension

Desk height

  • At, or slightly below, elbow height
  • This allows the hands to glide over the keyboard

 

4.Stiff neck- Can’t rotate to one side

Maybe when on the telephone you’re tilting your head and neck to cradle the phone on your shoulder.

Telephone use

  • Consider use of a hands-free speaker function, or a headset
  • *If not concurrently typing, a phone call could be a good excuse to get up and move away from your workstation for a time*

 

5.Lateral elbow pain or tingling in your fingers

Perhaps your wrist position when using the mouse/keyboard is extended too far

Wrist position

  • Keyboard should be flat or only slightly tilted
    • This reduces how much we have to extend our wrists
    • Lowering your chair height so your elbow is at, or slightly (<5cm) above desk height may also be required
  • Should I use wrist supports?
    • Supporting the forearms on the desk is preferred over isolated wrist supports
    • Supporting the load of the upper limb just via the wrist increases the pressure on the nerves in the wrist and can lead to pain

 

 

What else should you consider?

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It is very important to note a couple of key general points when working from home.

  1. You must move and change postures while working. The ability to frequently vary working posture in sitting, and between sitting and standing, is vital to maintaining a healthy work posture.
    • Limit ANY stationary posture (sitting or standing) to no more than 30 mins before taking a mini-break (brief walk, stretch) 
    • For more information regarding stretches to help with neck pain during a mini-break, READ HERE 
  2. Continue regular exercise (when not working). It will help with pain and muscle stiffness, and helps stress management and improves quality of sleep.
    • For more information regarding the importance of exercise and physical activity during the pandemic, READ HERE 
  3. Don’t expect to have the ‘perfect set-up’. Equipment limitations, individual differences and task requirements may require adapting the above guidelines to best fit your needs.

 

For more information related to ergonomic setup CLICK HERE.

Our physio expert in ergonomics Seb, is conducting ergonomic assessments via online consultations. For a comprehensive assessment of your working from home setup and more specific advice and tips BOOK HERE 

 

 

 

 

References:

Cook, C., & Burgess-Limerick, R. (2003). Guidelines for computer workstations. Ergonomics Australia, 17(1), 19-37.