Before the pandemic, the idea of working from home conjured up images of days spent lounging on your sofa in your comfiest pair of pajamas while you work with your laptop perched on your knees.
Now that remote work has become a reality for millions, virtual employees have come to realize that while telecommuting has plenty of benefits, there are some downsides, too.
One of those downsides is neck pain that comes from having a less-than-ideal work setup. The good news: A few simple changes to your work-from-home environment could reduce your neck pain dramatically.
David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS, has extensive experience in helping remote employees in Roseville, Minnesota, find simple, workable solutions for neck pain and avoiding more serious consequences, like herniated discs.
Here’s how your work-from-home routine could be contributing to your painful neck symptoms and what you can do about it.
There are lots of causes of neck pain, but for most remote employees, poor posture is a primary factor leading to their discomfort.
Without a proper work setting, you may hunch or slouch, especially if you work while sitting in a lounge chair or if you lack a proper desk. Hunching and slouching might seem relaxing, but they can put a lot of extra strain on your muscles, particularly the muscles in your neck.
Initially, these bad habits can cause some minor discomfort that might be relieved by a good night’s sleep. But over time, poor posture and other bad work habits can lead to disc-related issues, nerve compression, and more serious symptoms.
As a work-from-home employee, taking a few steps to optimize your work setting can yield big benefits for your health. By keeping pain at bay, it might just ramp up your productivity, too.
These simple tips can help you avoid neck pain, as well as back pain, shoulder pain, and headaches.
It’s tempting to do your work with your laptop resting on your lap, but it’s definitely not a good idea for your neck (or your back or shoulders, either). A hard work surface supports your laptop and keeps your arms bent at a more natural angle, reducing strain on your neck, back, and shoulders.
Slouching on your sofa or a comfy chair — or worse, your bed — provides little to no support for your neck.
Instead, invest in a good work chair with a headrest that offers support for your back and your neck. Make sure your chair fits comfortably under your desk so you don’t hold your arms at an odd angle when you use your computer.
Ergonomics is a science focused on how work affects your body. Ideally, you want to place your monitor so your eyes rest on the top third of the screen to avoid straining your neck.
Place your keyboard at a height that allows your forearms to be roughly parallel with the floor when typing. Use a bright light to avoid bending over your screen.
One big benefit of working from home is that you usually can work in breaks more frequently than you can in an office setting. Set a timer and stand up and stretch every 20-30 minutes. Add in some neck rolls and other neck exercises (even while seated) to help keep pain at bay.
Heating pads promote circulation and gently relax tense muscles. Look for one designed to drape over your neck and shoulders for maximum coverage. You can also use a heating pad along with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine for extra pain relief.
If you’re having any type of neck symptoms, including discomfort or stiffness, make the first step toward feeling better by getting a medical evaluation. Delaying care allows underlying problems to become a lot worse.
During your office visit, Dr. Chang will evaluate your symptoms and your neck function to diagnose the cause, so your treatment plan will be squarely focused on your needs.
There’s a lot to love about working from home, but you still need to take steps to protect your health. If you’re having neck pain or other neck-related symptoms, call us or book an appointment online today with Dr. Chang in Roseville, Minnesota.