The COVID-19 pandemic turned countless office workers into homebodies, and many of them made the transition permanent. After all, working remotely comes with plenty of perks, like ditching the morning commute, saving on gas and dry cleaning, and working in your sweats.
Sadly, your cushy home office may take a toll on your body, especially if you tend to type on the sofa or send emails from your kitchen table. Dr. Jay M. Shah and our team at SamWell Institute for Pain Management have seen an uptick in people with neck pain that correlates with the exodus from traditional office spaces. Here’s what Dr. Shah wants you to know about the pitfalls of working from home, so you can avoid the negative effects and seek help when you spot them.
How your neck feels about working from home
You may love the relaxed environment in your home office, but your neck may feel differently, and here’s why.
Most traditional offices comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards for ergonomically sound workstations, but once you leave that environment and opt for your recliner or bar stool, all bets are off. Your chair, desk, monitor height and distance, and keyboard position all influence your posture, and your posture influences your neck pain.
Slumping and slouching, looking at your monitor from an odd angle, and reaching for your keyboard strain your neck muscles and lead to injuries over time, such as radiculopathy, a compressed nerve that causes tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness that radiates into your arms and hands.
How to avoid neck pain while working from home
Now that you know why working at home can be a pain in the neck, you can take steps to prevent the problem. Here are some pointers to set yourself up for telecommuting success.
Fix your posture
Poor posture is the primary culprit behind neck pain for at-home workers. Drooping shoulders and a hunched back apply excess pressure on your spine, so pay attention to your body alignment and focus on sitting and standing with a neutral spine.
Overhaul your workstation
You’re not doing your neck any favors by curling up with your laptop in bed.
Protect your cervical spine by sitting in a supportive chair that cradles your lumbar spine (lower back), keeps your thighs parallel to the floor, and allows your feet to rest flat on the ground.
Your arms should rest on the chair arms, and your wrists should be relaxed, aligned, and slightly above the keyboard.
Position your monitor about 22 inches from your eyes at eye level.
If you have a standing desk, consider an anti-fatigue mat to relieve the pressure on your legs and back.
Take breaks and move
Staying in one position for long periods leads to muscle strain, cramps, decreased blood and oxygen flow, and fatigue. Avoid those problems by taking frequent breaks from your workstation. Push away from your computer and walk around the house, take a trip upstairs, or do some toe touches. Set an hourly reminder if necessary.
What to do when your neck hurts
Most neck pain associated with working from home stems from muscle strain, which you can relieve with rest, massage therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
However, if these conservative treatments don’t resolve your neck pain, Dr. Shah can get to the underlying cause and start you on an appropriate treatment.
SamWell Institute for Pain Management offers a comprehensive array of neck pain solutions, including:
- Physical therapy and personalized excercise programs
- Trigger point therapy
- Epidural steroid injections under live x-ray image guidance
- Facet joint injections and medial branch blocks (painful and stiff neck joint related pain)
- Radiofrequency ablation for inflammed and arthritic joints in the neck
- Spinal cord stimulation for complex neck and nerve pain
Once Dr. Shah diagnoses your neck condition, he customizes a treatment plan and helps you identify the factors that contributed to your condition so you can continue to work from home without further damaging your cervical spine.
Resolve your neck by seeking expert care from Dr. Shah, our double-board certified interventional pain specialist at SamWell Institute for Pain Management. Call or click today.