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Is Work From Home Straining Your Neck Muscles?
Over the past year, many people have shifted to working from home instead of going into an office every day. This means long hours hunched over at a desk, oftentimes not getting up to stretch or take breaks. This can lead to serious neck and shoulder pain. Most neck pain will go away on its own, but sometimes, it can be a sign of something more serious.
In this article, we’ll teach you all about what causes neck pain and learn some different ways to treat it.
What Is Neck Pain?
The neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. There are bones, ligaments, and muscles that make up the neck, which support your head and allow for motion. Abnormalities, inflammation, or injury to any of these parts can cause pain throughout the entire region. Because there are so many bones and muscles in the neck, it can be difficult to pin down which one is causing you pain
Most people experience some sort of stiffness or pain in the neck occasionally. This can be due to poor posture or overuse. This is why you’ll often experience neck pain after sitting at the computer all day long. Neck pain can also be caused by injury from a fall, exercise, or whiplash.
Usually, neck pain will go away on its own after a few days. But persistent, or sharp pain in the neck that lasts for more than a week may be a sign of something more chronic or serious. Around 10-25% of people will experience new neck pain each year, and this number is only increasing as people use smartphones and computers more frequently.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Your neck is made up of a variety of bones, ligaments, and muscles that are intricately linked together, making movement possible. Because of your neck’s complex structure, it can be difficult to zero in on what is actually causing you pain. Here are a few common causes of neck pain.
- Muscle Strain and Tension: This is arguably the most common cause of neck pain. This is usually caused by behavior or activities, such as poor posture, working at a desk for too long in one position, sleeping with your neck in an awkward position, or jerking your neck during exercise.
- Injury: The neck is extremely vulnerable to injury, especially after events such as falls, car accidents, or sports injuries, which cause the muscles and ligaments of the neck to move outside of their normal range.
- Medical Conditions: Neck pain can sometimes be a warning sign of certain medical conditions, such as heart attack, meningitis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Contact your doctor if you believe your neck pain is a side effect of any of these conditions.
- Cervical Disk Slips or Degeneration: A cervical disc is a shock-absorbing, soft pad that lies between the vertebrae in your neck. As you age, these discs can start to degenerate and can add stress to your joints. Disks can also slip or protrude due to injury or trauma.
Most causes of neck pain, like severe injury, related medical conditions, and cervical disk issues, can really only be treated by a doctor. Neck pain caused by muscle strain or tension, however, can often be alleviated without the help of a medical professional.
Ways To Alleviate Neck Pain Caused By Strain
However, some pelvic pain is not caused by any issues within the body but, rather, is caused by external factors. If you notice pain in your buttocks after sitting for a long time, this could be a problem related to the tuberosity in your pelvis. Tuberosity is also referred to as your sit bones or seat bones because it absorbs your weight when you sit.
As mentioned previously, neck pain caused by muscle tension or strain can often be alleviated at home, without doctor intervention. However, if the pain is agonizing or extremely persistent, contacting your doctor is the best way to go.
If you notice neck pain or strain after working at your computer all day in one position, give these pain-relief methods a try.
Adjust Your Posture
Sitting with poor posture is often the cause of muscle strain in the neck. An easy solution is to make sure you sit with good posture while working. It can be easy to slouch in your chair to get comfortable, but this can cause pain and discomfort in the long-run.
When sitting with proper posture, your shoulders should be relaxed but pulled back, the chest open, and the head level. If you notice yourself slouching during the day, something as simple as placing a sticky note on your desk with a reminder to sit up straight may help. Other things that might help fix your posture are:
- Getting a chair with proper lumbar support
- Keeping your upper back against the backrest of the chair
- Adjusting the height of your seat so that your wrist is level with the keyboard when typing, so your elbows are at 90 degrees
- Keep your computer screen level, or at 30 degrees down from your line of sight
Incorporate More Movement
Often, neck and shoulder strain is caused by keeping the head or neck in one position for a long period of time. If you find yourself sitting at the computer for long stretches of time without getting up, set reminders for yourself to get up and stretch once every hour or so.
Other than getting up from your chair, it’s a good idea to maintain flexibility and range of motion with a few neck stretches. To perform, take a few seconds to look up, then look down, turn your head to each side, then bend, touching your ear to your shoulder. Hold each position for 15-20 seconds. To stretch your shoulders, put your arms up as high as you can, then see if you can reach your opposite shoulder blade with your hand. Once you feel a gentle stretch, stop and hold the position for 15-20 seconds. Stop performing these stretches immediately if you feel any pain.
Try Massage Or Acupuncture
If your neck strain is more severe but not so severe that you need to see a doctor, you may want to consider some alternative medicine, like massage or acupuncture. A massage from a trained practitioner can help to loosen and stretch muscles in the neck and back, which may help relieve pain.
Acupuncture, or having needles inserted into specific pressure points on the body, may also help relieve neck strain or pain. While more scientific research needs to be done to prove the correlation between acupuncture and pain relief, acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years as a form of Eastern medicine. Acupuncture should only be done by a trained professional with sterile needles.
Yoga is a wonderful way to gently stretch the body, and it can help relax the muscles, relieving neck pain and strain. If you notice neck strain after a long day of work, incorporate some gentle yoga before bed each night. Try out the following poses:
- Exaggerated Nod: To perform, start by sitting at your desk or standing comfortably with your shoulders relaxed. With your mouth closed, look up at the ceiling. Pause here, and let your jaw relax and open your mouth. If you can, bring your head back further by an inch or two. Keep your head still here, and close your mouth. You should feel a stretch in the front of your neck.
- Downward Facing Dog: Begin on all fours. Tuck your toes in and lift your hips up high, reaching your hip bones towards the ceiling. Reach your heels back towards the mat, but don’t force them on the ground. Drop your head so that your neck is long and look toward your thighs. Taker at least three deep breaths, then relax.
Cat-Cow: Begin on all fours, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees, and the tops of your feet pressed into the ground. Look down a few inches in front of your fingers, and lengthen your head down to your tailbone.
To begin the cat phase, use your abs to curl your spine towards the ceiling while tucking your tailbone in as you exhale. Lengthen your neck and allow your chin to reach down and in.
To begin the cow phase, swoop and scoop your pelvis so that your belly drops down towards the floor as you exhale. Broaden your shoulder blades, draw your shoulders away from your ears, lift your chin and gaze towards the ceiling. Alternate between cat and cow a few times.
- Chin Tuck: This is a simple stretch that’s extremely effective. To perform, sit up tall in your chair, and keep your chin parallel to the floor. Without tilting your head in any direction, gently draw your head and chin back as though you’re making a double chin. You should feel a stretch along the back of the neck. Now, imagine there is a string pulling your head up like a puppet, trying to actively elongate your neck. Push the base of the skull away from the base of your neck. Keep your jaw relaxed, and take three deep breaths.
Working from home has led to people all over the world sitting hunched over a desk for long hours each day. This can cause neck and shoulder strain, which can be extremely painful if left untreated for too long. There are a variety of ways to help relieve this strain, from utilizing an ergonomic workspace to practicing yoga.
To help improve posture while sitting at your desk for long hours, consider investing in an Backstrong chair. Designed by experts to help support ideal posture and flexibility, the Backstrong can lead to less fatigue, better flow of oxygen, and relief from neck and shoulder strain. For more articles on lifestyle, posture, and health, visit our blog here.