Prevent Headaches and Neck Pain in the Office by Dr. Alexa

We all live in a fast-paced environment, with many of us sitting at a desk for most of the day. I have created the following tips and common mistakes to prevent neck pain and headaches. Although this is targeted toward office workers, we can all learn from taking on even one of these tips.

1) We are supposed to be stacked in line.

Keep the weight of your head in line with the neck and upper back. Avoid having your neck in a forward position for too long as this adds strain to the neck structures. Imagine that your body is like building, it needs to have a good foundation to build the top structures. Your low back, middle back, upper back, neck, and the head must all work together. A good tip that I use is to imagine a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you upwards while at your desk.

2) Keep the monitor directly in front of you at eye level.

Frequent turning of the neck can lead to added strain to the neck structures. This is something to consider if you work at a large workstation with multiple monitors. The monitors should be arranged the proper distance and orientation that they remain at eye level. With multiple monitors, you should focus on turning your entire body while keeping your neck in a stacked position. Get a swivel chair so you can move the whole body, not just the neck.

3) Make sure you have proper arm support.

The arms should be a proper level of support while you are typing on the keyboard. This is important because the shoulders and neck muscles must have an opportunity to rest to prevent overuse injuries. A common mistake is having the armrests too low, as the only opportunity to have to rest them is when you are not using your keyboard. Go ahead, give your shoulders the break they deserve- raise those armrests.

4) Adjust your seating!

This is a common mistake as some people believe that you should be in a military-like pose all day. This is not true. The structures of your body experience strain even in a perfect ergonomic position. It is important to change up your position throughout the day to prevent overuse injuries. Think about the sitting to standing desk work setups, these are a perfect example of having a choice of work setup. Many employers see the value in investing in injury prevention, so it never hurts to ask for a workstation upgrade. I have also heard great things about workstations a treadmill, it is great to see the work environment going in a healthy direction,

5) Get up and move.

A fun tip that I have learned from working with many office workers is to drink a lot of water. This will encourage you to get up and use the washroom, in addition to the many benefits of being properly hydrated. If you don’t have a water bottle at your desk, I would encourage you to invest in one.

6) Get a work headset or headphones with a microphone.

These can help to keep your spine stacked in a line as discussed in the first and most important point. Seems easy enough, but this one is often missed and people return to their old habit of holding the phone with their shoulder. If this is not possible in your workplace, there are other options for you. Most people have a favorite ear/arm to use the phone. Sounds funny but it is true, mine is the right one. Try switching up the arm and ear used to prevent overuse injuries and to also give your brain a bit of a workout. If you want a challenge, try to use your nondominant hand for an entire day. These types of challenges are good for brain plasticity, and it’s much harder than it seems.

7) Move closer.

Why are we leaning our heads forwards anyway? Well firstly, they are very heavy for our necks to hold (5 kg). And secondly, the work we have is in front of us. An easy solution is to bring your work closer to you or to eye level. Even with reading materials, you can create a stand to hold your book. An easy solution is to move your chair closer, but often the screen and keyboard need to be moved to the edge of the desk. Don’t be afraid to make your workstation personal.

Remember headaches are common but they do not have to diminish your quality of life!

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