Working from home sounds idyllic, right? No long commute, spending extra time with your family (or on your own), and you can do your job right from the comfort of your own home. What could be better?
There certainly are some advantages to working from home, but as millions of workers learned during the pandemic, it’s got its challenges, too. One of those challenges is learning how to deal with neck pain that comes from an ill-equipped office space.
At his practices in Carmel, Indianapolis, and Kokomo, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, helps work-from-home patients learn ways to combat neck pain with a variety of treatment options, including lifestyle changes. Here’s what he wants patients to know about neck pain, including how to prevent it and what to do if you have it.
Common causes of neck pain
Your neck is the most flexible part of your upper spine, which means it’s subjected to plenty of motion and strain all day long. Plus, the muscles of your neck need to support your head, no matter what position it’s in.
Neck pain is most often associated with muscle strain or problems with your discs, spongy cushions located between each pair of vertebrae that help protect your neck and keep it flexible. Some neck pain is associated with age-related changes in your spine or diseases like arthritis.
For people who work from home, one of the most common causes of neck pain is excess strain that comes from poor posture and poor ergonomics (in a nutshell, how well your office “fits” your body and your job duties). The culprit: makeshift home offices that just don’t do enough to support your spine.
What to do about work-from-home neck pain
If your neck hurts, it takes a big toll on your productivity. Plus, untreated neck pain can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, and it can even lead to chronic headaches.
The good news is, neck pain often can be relieved with a few modifications to your workspace and your work habits.
#1: Practice good posture
Slouching, slumping, bedding your head, or hunching your shoulders put excess strain on your neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons. If you’re balancing your laptop on your lap while you’re typing or slumping over a too-low desk, your neck is going to pay the price.
#2: Reposition your screen
Aim to keep your screen at or just slightly below eye level and directly in front of you to avoid craning or twisting your neck. Make sure you have adequate lighting to prevent you from leaning forward to read your screen.
#3: Focus on your chair
Sure, that comfy chair or couch is great for catching a few Zs or zoning out in front of the TV. But as an office chair, it just can’t provide the support your spine needs to stay healthy and strong. Instead, invest in a good office chair with built-in support for your whole spine, and make sure the chair fits your body and your desk, too.
#4: Invest in earbuds
Earbuds let you hear phone conversations clearly without tilting your neck to cradle your phone. Earbuds not your thing? Use a speakerphone or a phone headset, instead.
#5: Get moving
Holding your neck in one position for too long is another trigger for neck pain. Use a timer to remind yourself to stretch and move every hour or so, and incorporate a few neck exercises to relieve stress.
Know when to see your doctor
Initially, you might be able to relieve neck pain on your own by implementing these tips and maybe taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. But if your pain continues or worsens, it’s time to see the doctor.
Without treatment, chronic neck pain can quickly turn into something more serious, including permanent nerve damage in your neck, arms, or hands. To find relief for your neck pain, call or book an appointment online today and learn how Dr. Gentile can help.