Dear Hometown Docs: I’ve been working from home for 2 years and I’m getting back and neck aches. I sit at my desk all day, working on spreadsheets or doing Zoom calls. I spend a lot time on my phone. I tried standing instead of sitting at my desk, but it didn’t work. Can you help me?
Hunched Over in Hazen
Dear Reader, We spend so many hours at a computer to do our work or for school. We also tend to spend more time hunched up over our smartphones and tablets. Sitting for long periods without paying attention to posture can cause back and muscle pain.
The problem has been magnified in the last few years, with even teenagers experiencing this type of pain. The head can exert up to 60 lbs. of pressure on your neck, depending on how far you lean forward.
Text Neck is not a medical diagnosis but it has certainly led to more medical visits by teens and adults with neck pain, upper-back pain and/or shoulders pain. Patients describe a stabbing pain in these muscles or soreness. Also, people can experience jaw and face pain.
Better posture can reduce many of these symptoms.
Sitting at a desk: Your forearms and knees should be parallel with the floor. Your elbows should be by your sides. Sit straight up and don’t lean to one side. Your feet should be flat on the ground. The top of the monitor should be at or below eye level.
The neck muscles are put under strain when the head leans forward to look at the phone. Bringing the phone to eye level can help align the head, neck, and back. Notice the “chin tucked in” head position, and the straight back. The ears are aligned with the shoulders to relieve neck and back muscles.
When using a phone, you should always look straight ahead. You don’t need to look at the phone. Looking up at it can be even more dangerous. If you are laying on your back and looking at your phone, this can cause your upper spine to be damaged. Try looking up at your phone while sitting upright or lying on your back.
Stretching and exercising regularly can help reduce back pain. Strong, flexible neck muscles and back muscles can handle more stress. By strengthening your glutes with exercises such as “Bridges”, you can relieve pressure on your lower back. Strengthening oblique muscle by doing exercises such as “Russian Twists”, can help activate the correct muscle when you sit or are standing.
Back pain can be prevented by taking breaks. It is better to have short periods of back pain than a long period of back pain. Use an alarm clock to remind yourself to take a break. If you do not work at home all the time, setting aside times to use your computer or phone can help ease the pain.
Good posture begins with the choice of a desk and a chair. The screen should be at eye-level. The chair should also allow your feet to rest flat on the ground, provide good lumbar and wrist support, and be comfortable.
Many desks have adjustable tops that can be used as a standing desk. Standing at a computer desk can be beneficial for your neck, as long as the monitor is at eye level. This reduces neck strain.
Good posture is an important part of our daily lives, especially now that we spend so much time on our computers, tablets, and smartphones. Text neck is a new manifestation of poor posture that can be corrected by making some simple changes to your posture.
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