More than half of computer users each year develop neck or shoulder symptoms and just over one-third develop an impairment or the loss of some function," said researcher Dr. Frederic Gerr of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
SOURCE: American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2002;41:221-249
Sitting often puts stress on the back, neck and shoulders and the longer you sit, the more strain you place on these areas. Computer-related neck pain and can be caused by holding your head for long periods in a static position or by sitting in a slumped posture while looking at the screen. Taking regular breaks away from the computer and sitting tall, with spine erect, keeping ears in line with shoulders and chin parallel to the floor, can help alleviate this problem considerably. Most of us can do this at the start of our day, then as the minutes pass by our posture begins to slouch a little and we forget our good intention of sitting well.
So what can we do? This is where yoga and pilates type exercises can help, stretching and strengthening abdominal muscles, working on the shoulders and neck to make sitting at the computer with a good posture more attainable. Many of the simpler stretching exercises can be incorporated into your daily work routine. Stretch Break software can help support our injury prevention program and remind us to keep a good posture
What else can we do? Here are some important guidelines to help make sure that your office work area is as comfortable as possible and causes the least amount of stress to your body. Ensure you have a proper workstation set-up see officewise ergonomic workstation setup Begin by sitting as close as comfortably possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your keyboard, move your chair either up or down so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the front edge of the chair. If it is too tight, you may need to raise your feet with an adjustable footrest. Ideally your buttocks should be pressed against the back of your chair, the profile of the chair back should support your lower back to arch slightly so that you don't slump forward. This support is essential to minimise the strain on your back.
Try to avoid sitting in a slumped or slouched position, as this will place additional stress on your spine and lumbar discs. The top of your monitor should be at eye level, this generally means your eyes will be looking slightly down while you work allowing the eyes to be more relaxed. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to eithe raise or lower it. If you need to answer the phone and operate a computer at the same time, use a headset - holding a phone between your shoulder and cheek is one of the worst things you can do to your neck.
Use a document holder if you need to read material and type in relevent information Remember to get up from your desk, stand, stretch and walk, take the opportunity to complete tasks that do not rquire you to be seated, every 40 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day will help keep you flexible which in turn will help you feel more comfortable. Remember to consult with your doctor if you are experiencing ongoing pain.
Exercises for the Neck As with all exercise, you need to listen to your body, keep the back of the neck and spine lengthened and the rib cage lifted. Remember to breathe as you work with the different exercises.
• Lengthens and stretches neck muscles.
• Releases tightness due to poor posture.
Step 1: Sit comfortably. With your shoulders relaxed and your chin towards your chest, turn your chin to the right shoulder as far as is comfortable. Do not compress the back of the neck. Hold for about 30 seconds, repeat to the other side.
Step 2: Sit comfortably, shoulders relaxed. Take your ear down towards your right shoulder, relaxing the neck as much as possible. Feel the stretch on the opposite side. Hold for about 30 seconds and release. Repeat to the other side.
Step 3: Sitting comfortably, lift the sternum and chin towards the ceiling . Allow the head to drop back as far as is comfortable. Relax the shoulders. Exhale, bring the head back to center, then drop the chin towards the chest, allowing the back of the neck to lengthen. Hold, release.