Millions of people are working from home who never had done so before. And many of our homes are not necessarily equipped for the rigors of a workday. Prior to this we often tapped away at the kitchen table or perched in bed. But the new rigors combined with a lack of proper office equipment has left many hurting.
“Tech Neck” happens when people work for long hours and don’t sit in a way that supports their neck appropriately. This can come from looking down at a phone too long, too. Long hours of looking at devices without proper posture can cause neck pain leading to headaches and more.
Tech neck is a strain in the neck muscles caused by improper posture. There been an uptick since the pandemic set in as more people are working from home and away from desks and ergonomics that exist in many offices. Many work-at-home arrangements don’t offer ergonomic options for seating during working hours and ulness a company steps in to pay for it, most good options are too expensive. The result is a nation of employees who are newly suffering from chronic pain. It’s not just adults who may suffer from this, either. When children are e-learning, they’re also at risk. Symptoms include trapezius pain, stiffness and pain in the upper back, headaches, localized shoulder pain and muscle spasms, and headaches.
One of the ways to reduce the chances of tech neck is to rethink the workstation. Beds, sofas, and dining room tables are typical workstations when people are working from home. But those don’t provide the kind of support that a person’s neck (and the rest of their body) needs. Setting up a proper workstation where good posture is easier may help reduce the pain and discomfort. Paying particular attention to posture is the key.
Taking frequent, short breaks and being mindful of good posture may help. Many posture-related issues come from sitting with rounded shoulders and tilting the chin toward the chest. Placing shoulders against the back of a chair, keeping the chin up and the eyes off of the keyboard and keyboard can help.
Consider evaluating your workspace for body mechanics instead of comfort. How do you normally sit while working? Are you supported mechanically?
Taking regular breaks may serve to remind a person to readjust how they’re sitting when they return, or to start anew with their posture, thereby relieving pain. Taking breaks to stretch neck and shoulder muscles is also helpful. It can take weeks or months for the pain to become significant, so pay attention right hen it starts and tea steps to recover before it becomes debilitating. It also takes a lot of time to undo bad postural habits. Developing good habits and taking stretch breaks early may mean that pain issues never develop at all. Try to take a 5-10 minute break every hour and stand up, walk around, and stretch during the break rather than indulging in other forms of tech for that time.
Strengthening the neck muscles may help reduce pain. Consider seeking the care of a physical therapist to develop a good routine that both relieves and builds strength to prevent further injury. Additionally, stretching is an excellent way to alleviate the strain in the moment. But make sure to do it correctly. The impulse is often to stretch the chin down toward the chest, which is the opposite of what we should do because this increases the muscle elongation at the back of the neck, potentially making tech neck even worse.
One great stretch to consider is the shoulder blade squeeze. For this stretch, you sit up straight with arms extended behind the body and shoulder blades squeezed together. Turn palms upward and tuck in the chin (in,not down), with the head centered over the body. Then hold the position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Repeat the stretch three to four times during work breaks and a few times per day otherwise.
By stretching, taking breaks and keeping good posture, it’s easier to avoid tech neck — but knowing that it's a problem is key to avoiding it in the first place. Make sure to take steps at the very first sign (or before) because it's easier to treat before it gets bad enough to sideline you from working altogether.
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