The number of people working from home has been steadily climbing in the past decade, but it’s become much more common in the past two years. With 6.1% of its workforce working remotely, Washington, DC has the highest rate of remote workers, and that includes a large percentage of Marylanders.
Although there are numerous advantages to working at home, there’s one potential disadvantage. If your desk isn’t set up correctly, remote work could be a pain in the neck.
Is your work-from-home arrangement causing a stiff neck? Find out below.
Is working from home a pain in your neck?
Do you find yourself catching up on emails while leaning over your phone? Or maybe you’ve taken your laptop onto the couch to work for a few hours? Although technology makes working from literally anywhere a possibility, your neck might not appreciate these unconventional working locations.
When you lean your head over a tablet or phone 一 or when you work with your laptop on your lap 一 your neck takes the brunt of it. The more you lean forward, the more pressure is put on the muscles in your neck. When your neck is at a 0-degree angle, your head weighs just about 10-12 pounds. However, when you lean forward at a 60-degree angle (akin to looking down at your phone), your neck muscles are strained with the force of 60 pounds.
This pressure on your neck can cause:
- Pain and stiffness in your neck muscles
- Muscle tension in your shoulders and upper back
- Reduced mobility in your neck, shoulders, or upper back
- Increased discomfort when tilting your head forward
This type of neck pain is referred to as “tech neck,” and unfortunately, the number of hours you use your phone or tablet each day contributes to increased pain. This means that an eight-hour work day leaning over a laptop or phone spells bad news for your neck.
Can you avoid tech neck?
The good news is that tech neck is preventable with a few small changes to your work-from-home routine. Most importantly, refrain from tilting your neck forward to look down while working. Your device 一 whether that’s a phone, tablet, a laptop, or a desktop monitor 一 should always be at eye level, so you can keep your neck at a 0-degree angle.
Despite the name, laptops shouldn’t be used on your lap. Not only do they tend to overheat that way, but it forces you to look down while you type. Instead, move laptops to an appropriate desk or counter. Adjust the height of your desk and/or chair so that when you sit, your feet are flat on the flat, and your knees are bent at 90-degree angles.
If you attend virtual meetings, use a device holder to hold your phone or tablet at eye level. Don’t hold the device manually.
In addition, these tips can help you keep good posture and support proper spinal alignment:
- Use a desk chair with lumbar support and armrests
- Add a tailbone cushion if your chair isn’t comfortable
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and refrain from tensing them as you work
- Use a headset to talk on the phone and avoid holding your phone between your ear and shoulder
Most importantly, stay active throughout the day. At least once an hour, stand up, stretch, and walk around. Not only is this good for your neck, but it’s good for your overall health, too. Sitting for prolonged periods can increase your risk of varicose veins and poor circulation. Standing and walking throughout the day also support mental wellness and help prevent digital eye strain.
When to seek medical intervention for your neck pain
The occasional sore neck may last only a few days and resolve with rest, massage, and heat therapy. But not all cases of neck pain resolve on their own. Studies show that forward head posture (FHP) 一 the same posture that strains your neck muscles 一 can cause cervical radiculopathy, cervicogenic headaches, and cervicogenic dizziness. If your neck pain doesn’t subside within a day or two, we encourage you to visit us here at Precision Laser Joint and Spine Pain Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
To ensure that we’re treating the root cause of your symptoms, Dr. Dustin Hamoy performs a comprehensive exam and reviews imaging tests (such as X-rays) to pinpoint the source of your pain. With an accurate diagnosis in place, our team creates a personalized treatment plan, combining physical therapy, lifestyle guidance, and, if needed, multiwave locked system (MLS) laser therapy.
If you suspect that working from home is contributing to your neck pain, call us at 659-204-5737, or use our booking tool to get started with your neck pain treatment options.