This article was written by Dave Girardot DPT, CEAS I – physical therapist at Parkview Therapy Services and Parkview Employer Solutions.

Do you spend hours on your computer? We use our devices for extended periods of time, whether it’s because we are on social media, at work or just because we live in a tech-dependent world. The downside? The stress and forces that the screen setup puts on your muscles, joints, and neck can cause neck pain, tightness and headaches. We can’t eliminate the need to sit at a desk but we can make adjustments to reduce the discomfort. In this post, we will focus on reducing neck pain.

Five ways to reduce the strain on your neck


The first step is to maintain an “upright posture” and avoid slouching. Start with the support beneath your neck:

  • Low and mid-back support – Adjust the low back support of your chair or purchase a lumbar cushion. You can use a towel rolled up and placed between your lower back, and the chair.
  • Keep both feet supported. This is the foundation of good posture. If your feet are dangling buy a footrest or use a stack or paper packages as a temporary solution.

Monitor Setup

Make sure that the top of your monitor screen is at eye level. This will prevent the neck from bending up or down and will direct your natural eye gaze towards the middle of the monitor. Use a monitor raiser (a stack or books will also work) to adjust the screen height.

If you are using two monitors equally (50%) each, place them together with the screens slightly angled inward and the middle “split” between the screens directly in front. If you use two monitors equally (50%) then place them together, with the screens slightly inward. The middle should be “split” in between the screens. If you use one screen more than 75% of the times, place it directly in front of your face and the other screen at an angle of about 45 degrees. If you have three monitors, I recommend the same set-up.

Desktop Setup

Over-reaching can cause neck tension and strain. Avoid reaching forward by keeping your keyboard closer to your desk edge. Keep the mouse next to the keyboard in order to avoid reaching forward.

Position items you use frequently (pens, glasses, and so on) close to you. Keep items that you use frequently close to your body. Consider keeping some items (calculator, stapler, etc.) Avoid overusing your dominant side by keeping items (calculator, stapler, etc.) on your non-dominant.

Use a document holder if you are required to look down at documents frequently. This will keep your neck and posture in a better position.

Laptop users

Laptops are convenient, but they put a lot more strain on your neck, because you must look down at the screen. Set up your laptop to improve posture when you are not on the move.

  • To raise the screen, place the laptop on a laptop holder (or a stack of books).
  • Use a wireless keyboard and mouse with the laptop raised to avoid awkward angles or overreaching.

Take some time off

Even with good setup and posture, your body will still experience stress and strain if it is not moved or stepped away. Breaks do not need to be lengthy- the key is frequency. It is important to take a break every hour, or at least every 20-30 minutes. Try these tips:

  • 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, gaze 20 feet away and for 20 seconds. This reduces eye strain and fatigue.
  • Get up and walk – No need to do anything special. Just get out of the chair and walk, or get water, or go to bathroom. The key to moving is to get up and move!
  • Stand up and Work – Use a stand-up desk or a conversion unit that sits directly on your desk to easily change your position throughout the day.
  • Stretch and move your neck – Simple movements and stretches will help to loosen up muscles and increase blood flow in this sensitive area.

Keep an eye on your clock and optimize your technology to align with your body. Your neck, shoulders, and mind will be grateful if you prioritize your well-being.

Parkview Employer Solutions offers services to businesses and other organizations, and is focused on improving the health and well-being of our communities.