Neck pain in computer users
Neck pain is one of the most common work-related injuries. More than 87% of computer workers report pain in the neck and shoulder pain, ranging from acute to chronic pain.
Experts suggest that the most common causes of neck pain include awkward posture, injury, disability and disease. However, neck pain that lasts longer than a couple of days and hinders your normal activity needs prompt medical attention.
Before we try to understand the association of neck pain with computer use, it is important to look into the basic neck structure.
The neck is a long, complex structure that supports the head. It is made of seven cervical vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, glands and lymphatic tissue. Conditions that adversely affect these structures can further lead to neck pain, stiffness and restricted mobility. The most common causes include overuse, repetitive strain and trauma.
In a study conducted amongst office workers, the annual incidence of computer related neck pain stood at a whopping 34.4%. The incidence was found higher in females and amongst those with poor position of screen and keyboard, higher stress and less physical exercise.
Another study of 206 computer users reported that almost 60% of respondents suffered from upper extremity or neck pain attributed to computer use. A yet another Danish study reported severe neck pain in 4.1% of computer users over a short span of time.
Causes and Remedies
A vast series of workplace conditions and causes can lead to an increase in the computer-related neck pain.
Here we list the most important causes and there possible remedies.
Height of the screen– The height of the computer screen should be neither too high nor too low. It is advisable that you put the monitor on Monitor blocks. If you are short on desk space, use a monitor arm. The monitor should be at a height where the top of the screen is at the level of your eyes.
Height of the armrests- The armrests of your chair should be at a comfortable level. You can simply either remove the armrests of your chair or get a chair with height adjustable armrests. Improper shoulder elevation– Set your chair at the correct height. Use a footrest if your feet are not in full contact with the floor. Raise the desk on desk feet if your thighs hit the underside of the desktop. If possible, use a height adjustable desk. Sitting too low– Get height adjustable armrests for your chair to ensure that you are sitting at the right height level. Also use a footrest wherever required. Repetitive head movements– Accessories such as a writing slope, copyholder, monitor block and monitor arms ensure that you do not have to perform any repetitive head movements that might lead to neck pain. Fatigue– Take frequent breaks. It is important to stretch, walk and change your posture, preferably after every 30 minutes of sitting in your seat. Stress and tension– Avoid all causes of stress and tension at your workplace. Working with a tense temperament at your computer seat can further aggravate your neck pain and the overall fatigue level.
In addition, it is also important to maintain good postural habits and relax in your leisure time, so that your body can de-stress properly, preventing fatigue and the resulting pain.
Apart from the specific measures you can take on your computer desk, there are other self-care measures that you can also adopt to prevent computer-related neck pain.
Here we list the most important amongst them.
- Get regular checkups
- Maintain proper posture
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a proper diet
- Manage stress
Treatment of Neck Pain
Once your neck pain fails to respond to simple home remedies and basic exercise, it is time to seek medical help.
Here we list the main forms of treatment involved for relief from neck pain.
Physical therapy, including stretching and muscle strengthening exercises combined with appropriate heat, ice or similar treatments Pain medications, including the likes of opioid analgesics, muscle relaxants and tricyclic antidepressants Traction, especially for pain related to nerve root irritation Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) Corticosteroids Short-term immobilization Surgery