Across the globe, working-from-home rates have skyrocketed over the past few years, largely in part to the pandemic. California is no exception! The number of Californians working from home remains high, especially in southern coastal cities. An estimated 59% of people living in the San Diego area work from home.
While working from home has many advantages, it does come with a few drawbacks, and surprisingly, increased neck pain could be one of them.
Here at Wynn Over Pain, we know that neck pain is a nuisance and can be hard to treat on your own. That’s why we encourage you to visit our National City, California, office if you have neck pain.
In the meantime, Brenton Wynn, MD takes a closer look at how working from home can be a pain in your neck and how you can prevent neck pain at home.
Think back to your most recent day of work. Did you catch up on emails on your phone rather than at your desk? Did you sign into a few meetings on your laptop on your couch? Technology makes it possible to work from anywhere 一 whether that’s your home office, your couch, or a hotel on Coronado Island 一 but your neck might not appreciate working in not-so-ergonomic positions.
When you crane your head over a phone or laptop 一 and even when you work with your laptop on your lap 一 your neck takes the brunt of it. It may seem like an oxymoron, but using your laptop on your lap isn’t ideal. It forces you to bend your upper back and neck. Learning forward places more pressure on the muscles in your neck.
Let’s take a look at the physics behind bending your neck forward. When you use good posture, your neck aligns with your spine, rather than leaning forward, away from your spine. At this angle and in proper alignment with your spine, your head weighs about 10-12 pounds. However, if you lean forward to look at your phone, your neck assumes a 60-degree angle. At this angle, your neck muscles feel as though your head weighs about 60 pounds.
The additional strain on your neck can weaken your deep neck flexors and other muscles in your neck, including your scapular stabilizers and retractors. Holding your head too far forward can also overactivate your deep upper cervical extensors and your pectoralis minor, pectoralis major, and levator scapula. All of this can cause:
If you’re nodding your head “yes” to all of these symptoms, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s even a name for this type of neck pain: tech neck. Studies show that hours spent on your phone or tablet contributes to increased neck pain.
In other words, spending eight (or more!) hours each day on a laptop or phone can lead to increased neck pain.
Now that we’ve explained how working in non-ergonomically correct positions can affect your neck, let’s focus on the steps you can take to avoid tech neck. The most important takeaway is that your neck should remain in a neutral spine alignment.
To do so, you may need to:
You may also find that pausing work every hour or so to stand up, stretch, and move around is good for your whole body, neck included!
Poor posture and the resulting tech neck can lead to chronic neck pain. In addition to neck pain, researchers found that forward head posture (FHP) can lead to cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerves), cervicogenic headaches, and even cervicogenic dizziness. If your neck pain persists for more than a day or two, we encourage you to visit us here at Wynn Over Pain.
As a pain management specialist, Dr. Wynn creates a personalized treatment plan, combining physical therapy, lifestyle guidance, injections, and acupuncture to help you find relief.
Don’t let your work-from-home routine sabotage your neck! To get relief, call our office or use our online scheduling tool to book your exam today.