“The chair is out to kill us,” a Mayo doctor says. Several studies point to the health risks of the computer era. According to recent studies, more than 50 percent of people who work in front of the computer suffer from neck and upper back pain. If we make a pie chart and list all our daily activities, we will notice that apart from eight hours of sleep, most of our time is spent working in front of our computer desk. That tired, achy, stressed out feeling may not be coming from the mental stress. After spending 8 to 10 hours working on the desk, your shoulder and neck muscles feel stiff, tense and painful.
Studies have found that computer users experience the highest incidence of neck pain of all workers. In chronic neck pain, the two main muscles involved are levator scapula or trapezius. Constant elevation of the shoulder while typing on keyboard can cause continuous stress on these muscles, resulting in neck and shoulder pain. The prevalence of neck problems increases with the amount of hours in a day with computer use, and the amount of time with shoulders raised.
If shoulder and neck pain are not addressed on-time, it can lead to RSI or repetitive stress injury. Computer posture involves unconscious fatigue of muscles caused by postures held too long. When fatigued muscles around the shoulder or neck joint are held at their extremes for long periods, they put pressure on nearby muscles, leading to problems like nerve impingement.
People who sit a lot in front of computer are more prone to back problems and disc degeneration. This is because prolonged sitting may result in excessive loading and tissue deformation of the lumbar spine. Other health injuries associated with spending hours in front of computer include reduced intradiscal pressure, irritated nerves, lumbo-pelvic hip complex instability and lower crossed syndrome
Ways to relieve neck and shoulder pain due to computer use
If not properly addressed, neck and shoulder pain can become chronic and lead to a number of other, more serious conditions. Therefore, you have to take measures to treat chronic strain on neck and shoulder joint.
Stretch at your desk
Take a minute or two once an hour to do some light neck stretching. Keeping your head and back straight, turn your neck to extreme right and then left, without moving your back. Now tuck your head down in the direction you are looking. This will stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. Desk exercises maintain mobility and increase flexibility of neck muscles.
Apart from specific desk exercises, regular shoulder and neck exercises also strengthen muscles on the upper body. Incorporate yoga, stretching or other neck exercises involving dumbbells and resistance bands in your daily exercise routine.
Arrange your computer workstation
Another way to maximize correct posture and reduce neck flexion is by rearranging your computer workstation. Adjusting screen height, and use appropriate chairs and supports can help in reducing neck pain. Your mouse and keyboard should be placed next to each other so as to avoid strain on your forearm, neck and shoulder.
Most of us slouch while sitting in front of a computer. Proper posture aligns your head, neck and spinal column. Instead of tipping your head forward to get closer to the screen, keep your spine straight with head back and bend at the waist. This position gives you a nice low back stretch at the same time. An ergonomic counselling can improve your posture at your workstation while minimizing neck and shoulder fatigue.
One cannot stop working in front of computer desk as that is the part of his work routine. But, certain lifestyle changes can be included to handle our sluggish ways. This includes taking small coffee breaks every hour to release the tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. Walk to the farthest bathroom in your workplace. In addition, rest on flexed posture as it is beneficial for the spine.
Another way of relieving tensed muscles in the neck and shoulder is by getting a good massage. Although massage therapy does not provide permanent relief, it releases tension from the strained muscles anyways. Moreover, it also improves blood circulation, which in turn increases oxygen and nutrient flow in the muscle fibers.