Login | May 20, 2019

Computer neck

Pete’s World

Published: March 11, 2019

Do you sit in front of a computer all day? If you do then you just might be living out the following scenario on a regular basis.

You’re totally dialed in, in the midst of a keyboard concerto. You can’t be stopped. One hour passes, then two. But past that two-hour mark you realize your neck’s barking at you. So you get up for a quickie break, turn you head a few times, take a gulp of coffee and do it all over again.

And this scenario plays out every few hours, day after day, week after week, year after year.

Are you nodding that poor, tormented neck in agreement? Well, for those of you who are…I feel your pain. After 30 years of computer work my neck got so bad it began to affect my cycling. Not only was my neck perennially sore on the bike, but its ROM (range of motion) became more limited - I started having trouble looking backwards for traffic.

Yup, years of sitting at the computer can cause significant strain on the neck. Strain can lead to soreness, and soreness can lead to tension. Repetitive bouts of this soreness-tension cycle can eventually lead to chronic pain and loss of ROM.

So let’s look at what can be done to avert potential neck issues.

1) Proper posture

This was my first course of action, and it’s probably is one of the most important components of preventing “computer neck.”

First, make sure you have an anatomically correct chair that properly supports your body. This chair should allow a sitting position such that the low back makes contact with the lower, curved portion of the chair. If the chair lacks a curve, support your low back with a small pillow or cushion.

When seated, make sure hips and knees are bent to approximately 90 degrees, and the elbows are supported at a relaxed height on the armrests.

Second, consider your work surface, which should be at a height that allows you to work comfortably on the keyboard with no hunching, slouching or reaching.

2) Take regular breaks

Try to limit yourself to 20-30 minutes at a time in that static seated position. During your breaks, move around a bit and/or stretch out the neck and back.

3) Neck stretching/strengthening exercises

If you’ve no restrictive movement issues and/or major pain associated with your neck, then some stretching/strengthening exercises are definitely in order.

Begin with the shoulder shrug. You’re targeting the trapezius muscle group, that triangular shaped muscle mass behind the head. “Trap” tension is usually the result of slouching and hunching positions.

Begin by standing up straight with your arms hanging loosely at your side. If you participate in resistance training, hold dumbbells. If you don’t, begin without weights. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears without moving the arms. Hold the shrug for three seconds, or until you feel the contraction in your trap muscles, then relax completely. Do anywhere from two to four sets of five to ten reps per set.

There are many ways to stretch and strengthen the neck. I tie a flat resistance band around a secure object (beam, door handle etc.), then position myself several feet away from the anchor to create band tension. But you can also use your hand(s) to hold the band, you can use partner assistance, or you can use an actual neck machine.

Left and right rotation. Face the anchor with the band secured around the back of the head. From the face forward position, turn the head to the left slowly, than back to face forward. Do this 10-20 times, then repeat on right side.

Chin Tuck. With your back facing the anchor and the band secured around your forehead, lean slightly forward to create tension. You may have to guide the band with your hands to keep it in position as you slowly dip your head down towards your breastbone. Do 10-20 slow chin-to-breastbone tucks.

Chin Lift. Just the opposite of the tuck, where you now face the anchor and secure the band around the back of the head. Lean back to create tension and then move the forehead upwards such that your chin raises several inches above neutral for 10-20 reps.

Remember…if you want to keep your head in the game, take care of the foundation it rests upon - the neck.