Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have switched from an in-office model to a work-from-home or hybrid setup. In fact, according to the United States Census, the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021.
Those of us who work from home can name some clear benefits: Perhaps you get to enjoy more time with your furry friends and save on gas previously spent on commuting to and from work. You have more flexibility in your wardrobe, and you don’t have to buy food or pack a lunch every day. When drawbacks come up, it’s easy to balance them with the parts of working from home that you enjoy.
Unfortunately, not everyone who works from home has access to ergonomic seating or a quality computer monitor at eye level. In fact, some people complete their work tasks from a couch, recliner, or barstool. These casual seating arrangements aren’t so friendly on your neck and back.
If you’ve noticed an uptick in neck pain since you started working from home, you’re not alone. Many major medical organizations have published literature on the risk of neck or back pain in remote jobs as well as helpful guides on how to optimize your home workspace for the good of your health. The team of physicians and physical therapists at North Point Orthopaedics in Crown Point and Munster, Indiana, can assist you with treating any neck pain that occurs and help you implement changes in your work-from-home life to minimize the discomfort.
Neck pain occurs when strain is placed on your muscles. Slouching over a computer or even a smartphone for hours at a time places repeated and excessive stress on the muscles and nerves around your cervical spine, which leads to neck pain, along with other symptoms like headaches, back pain, and neck stiffness. This can cause or worsen issues like:
This type of muscle strain and pain in the neck is so common that experts have dubbed it “tech neck.”
Tech neck symptoms occur because keeping your neck at an angle –– even a small one –– increases the number of pounds your neck must support. Your head weighs 10-12 pounds, but holding your neck at a 45 degree angle as you look at your computer screen places the equivalent of 50 pounds of force on your neck. Day after day, this can pose a serious issue for your neck’s muscles and nerves.
It may seem impossible to avoid tech neck if you can’t afford a fancy ergonomic work-from-home setup complete with a supportive chair or a standing desk. While investing in either of these pieces of equipment can help with work-from-home neck strain, you can take some other steps that involve fewer expenses.
Unexpected factors like eye strain can play into neck pain, too. Getting blue light glasses, taking frequent breaks from staring at your screen, and increasing the font size on documents and web pages can all help remove some of the daily stress on your neck.
It also helps to be mindful of your sitting position and keep a good posture throughout the day, even if you prefer to work on the sofa. To minimize neck strain and improve your posture, you should:
Each of these steps can ease some of the stress on your neck as you complete your work every day.
Our team at North Point Orthopaedics welcomes you to visit for an evaluation and treatment consultation when you can’t manage tech neck at home. In many cases, conservative treatments like physical therapy and lifestyle modifications are enough to keep you comfortable while working from home. But more intensive options, like cervical steroid injections or minimally invasive spine surgery, may be on the table if your neck pain persists.
Call one of North Point Orthopaedics’ offices or schedule an appointment online today to see how you can lower your risk for neck pain while working from home.