Working from home offers a number of advantages over the daily commute, but it does come with some serious disadvantages. It can be a pain in the neck. Literally.
It’s a good bet you haven’t set up your home office as ergonomically as your workplace, and you may end up with severe neck pain after just a few hours working at your computer and checking your phone.
This phenomenon, enhanced by the COVID pandemic, even has a name — “tech neck.” About 10% of the population deals with it at any given time, according to a Harvard Medical School report, and an enormous 70% develop it at some point during their lives.
At Coastal Pain Medicine, our pain management specialist, Patrick Brennan, DO, diagnoses and treats neck pain at our Pompano Beach, Florida office.
He wants to stress the importance of good ergonomics, especially when working from home, so we put together this informational guide on the problem and its solutions.
With tech devices, it’s easy to spend your day with your head jutting forward and/or looking down at a screen. But when you do this, you increase the stress on your cervical spine (neck bones).
For each inch you lean forward, your c-spine takes on an additional 10 pounds of weight. Since the average human head weighs 10-12 pounds, just 1-2 inches of leaning forward can double or triple the load on your neck.
Over time, this pressure can pinch the nerves at the top of your spine, causing stabbing pain that radiates into your arms and hands. And nerve compression where the spine connects to the skull leads to stiffness and pain in the back of the neck that contributes to headache and migraine attacks.
The neck area just above your shoulders is particularly vulnerable to pain from tech, since the C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae already handle the greatest load from your head.
The more damage that occurs in the spine and its connective tissues, the harder it becomes to repair. Seeking help sooner rather than later is critical for effective treatment.
Medical literature contains numerous studies about how poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to neck pain, and how those in sedentary and/or computer-intensive jobs have a higher incidence of neck pain.
When you’re working from home, you should set up your home office so it’s ergonomically balanced, just as when you’re working onsite. The key to relieving neck pain is preventing that pain from ever getting started. Here are some tips for when you’re on a device:
The more ergonomic tips you can incorporate, the more effective they will be.
In addition to improving your ergonomics, include specific stretches and exercises into your daily routine that reduce forward and downward head posture. Dr. Brennan can show you some basic stretches to get you started.
Generally, you can start with over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories along with at-home stretches to relieve your discomfort. If these aren’t enough to manage your pain, Dr. Brennan may recommend a minimally invasive procedure such as:
At Coastal Pain Medicine, we also provide holistic therapies like acupuncture, which helps reduce neck pain and promotes better blood circulation.
If you continue to suffer neck pain, Dr. Brennan might recommend a spinal cord stimulator, an electronic device implanted in your body that dampens pain signals to the brain.
If you’re working from a home office and love it except for the persistent neck pain, it’s time to contact Coastal Pain Medicine for an evaluation with Dr. Brennan. Give our office a call at 954-284-0996, or request your appointment online today.