Updated: Oct 13
Throughout the last 7 months I have seen an increasing number of patients complaining of neck pain of one form or another. Whether it’s a dull constant neck ache or sharp neck pain when turning your head or looking up or down. Inevitably, it comes down to things we do, and the way we do them. Looking back over the past 6 months, the causes increasingly point to the way in which we work from home.
A very common complaint I get is neck pain or stiffness during the day and worse in the evening after a long day of work. So the conversation goes something like this:
Me: “What do you do for work?”
Patient: “I work in ___, so working from home at the moment, spending a lot of time at my laptop”
Me: “OK. and have you thought about a proper workplace set-up at home?”
Working from home
Working from home is the new normal now, and by now we should all be used to it. However, due to the uncertainty of the situation, and due to many people living situations, many still haven’t taken a serious approach to home-office set-up.
The reason why this is so important is that injuries are most often caused when a movement or a structure is loaded poorly, or overloaded REPETITIVELY. Doing something in a sub-optimal way just a few times isn’t often enough of a stimulus to cause tissue damage, but doing it again and again is. Prolonged poor static postures like slumping in your chair, hunching over a laptop, or craning your neck to one side will cause these niggles and injuries to occur over a period of time. This is why you may have ‘gotten away with it’ for a few months.
Think about it like this, if you are going to do something for 8-10hours per day, 5 day per week, for 30-40 years, why wouldn’t you do it in a way that is least likely to put unwanted strain on your body?
How to set up your desk
A proper desk set-up is a must. No more working from your bed, or lumping on the sofa. You must try and find a table to sit at and a decent chair to sit on. If you can, try adding in a standing alternative
These are my top tips for setting up your desk:
The screen at eye height - get a laptop stand or a desktop screen
Keep your screen in the middle of your desk so you’re not turning your head
Sit in a proper chair, use a Lumbar Support for your lower back (a rolled-up towel will do)
Sit back in your chair with your feet flat on the floor - not sprawled around in it
Use a separate mouse and keyboard - rather than lifting your arms to type on your raised laptop
Get up regularly - every hour or so, just stand and move around for a few minutes
Take calls on the go - of you don’t have to be visible, take your calls on a short walk
Stretches to do at your desk
If you are well and truly locked to your desk you need to stretch certain things. Try the stretches below, each for 30 seconds at a time, on both sides of the body where appropriate. And remember with stretching, use your breath to relax into the position, don’t just push and pull yourself harder, that will likely cause more problems.
Your hands and wrists - Gently bend them forward and back to stretch the muscles in the fingers and forearms. Do both sides.
Your neck - Gently move from side to side, up to down and left to right
Your chest - Reach behind and your back feel the stretch across your chest and shoulders
Your shoulders - Place your arms on the chair and drop your chest down to stretch your lats and shoudler
Your upper back - Push through your shoulder blades to round your upper back and stretch the muscles in your upper back
Your lower back - Drop your chest between your knees, just hang and stretch your lower back, may also be good for groin, glutes and hamstrings too!
Your hips - Drop to one knee at your desk, tuck your bum under and stretch the front of the kneeling hip. Do both sides
Your glutes - Cross one leg over the other and then gently lean forward to get your glute and lower back. Do both sides
Stretches are a great place to start but are only part of the answer. There is no substitute for movement. Getting up and walking, before, during, and after work will be a lifesaver. Strengthening exercises are also crucial, not only for pain relief but for injury prevention. Those same muscle groups all need strengthening too. A regular pilates or yoga class can be very beneficial, as well as a resistance band or weight training, all done in a safe manner of course!
If you would like to know more about my favourite postural strengthening exercises then book in for a 1:1 assessment and we can go over your body alignment and posture to build you your very own tailored postural strengthening program.