Do you suffer from neck/upper back pain or stiffness? Have you been diagnosed with “tension” headaches? If so, consider that your posture might have a lot to do with the problem. This has been amplified since the Covid-19 pandemic where more people are working from home or spending more time on computers, and Zoom is the new platform.
Desk or computer work may not seem physically stressful, but a deeper dive into this subject shows quite the opposite.
Imagine you are sitting at your computer for a good stretch of time – say an hour or so. How does your neck feel? How do your shoulders or upper back feel? Any tension or soreness there? Yes, we have all been told to “sit up straight” at one time or another, but there is more to it than that.
Ideally while at the desk, your elbows and forearms should be supported so you don’t have to use your upper back to hold up your arms when you use the mouse or when you type. Your computer monitor should be close to eye level, and you should be sitting up straight with your low back supported in some way. Also, the biggest point to remember is DO NOT lean your head forward while looking at the computer screen! Leaning your head forward a few more inches will not improve your ability to see the computer screen, but it will drastically increase the tension in the back of your neck and upper shoulders.
Your head is situated over your shoulders so your spine can take the force axially. When you lean your head forward, the muscles in the front of your neck and chest become short and tight. The muscles in the back of your neck and shoulders become long and tight – Imagine a rope that is stretched as long as it can go. You can’t stretch it anymore. That is what happens when you try to stretch the back of your neck and upper thoracic areas. You have to put slack in those muscles – not just stretch them. They’re already stretched – that’s why they are tight in the first place and the headaches start.
This type of posture also puts a tremendous amount of undue pressure on your spine at the base of your neck and upper back which can lead to worse problems such as numbness, tingling or weakness in your hands or arms.
Before the next time you have a long Zoom meeting or a lot of deskwork, spend a few minutes analyzing your posture. If it needs changing, then work to change it. And don’t even get me started about sitting crumpled up on the couch with your laptop or iPad – C’mon you know you do this! But seriously, work on your posture and your neck and back will thank you!
Matt Terreri, DC, CCSP is a sports chiropractor at Southern Oregon Sports & Spine as well as the official chiropractor for the SOU Raiders and a volunteer medical provider for the U.S. Olympics.