Quite regularly, patients present to our clinic (Burlington Sports Therapy) with a stiff, tight, painful neck. Usually, patients attribute this neck pain to countless hours of computer work. These patients often describe their pain “as if the muscles of my neck won’t relax”. Interestingly, some recent research may confirm this description!
A recent study published in the journal “Manual Therapy” looked at two different postures and their affect on neck muscle activity. The results found that subjects with a history of chronic neck pain showed altered and increased muscular activity when simply putting their hands on a keyboard. In other words, their neck and shoulder muscles “went crazy” when they simply placed their hands on the keyboard when compared to just placing their hands on their lap.
Neck Pain and Posture
Similar to the results mentioned above, another study published in 2005 found that people with chronic neck pain showed an increased “agitation” of the neck muscles while typing on a keyboard. In other words, these types of studies confirm the fact that typing on a keyboard and sitting at your computer is not really helpful for your neck pain. So what do we do?
Computer Desk Ergonomics
Before you seek any treatment for your neck pain, it is important to ensure that your work-station is ergonomically correct. That means, your work-station should be set up in a way that allows good posture. Although treatment for your neck pain can be very effective, your pain will likely return if you go back to your poor workstation and return to your daily habit of poor posture.
Tips For Setting up Your Computer Desk
To start with, ensure that your computer monitor is straight in front of you, instead of at an angle to your chair. Your chair height should allow your forearms to rest on the desk, without having to “shrug” when sitting. In general, your eyes should be at the level of the top of your computer monitor. With respect to your lower back, you should maintain a good curve in your lower back (lordosis) while sitting. This will assist your neck and mid-back in good posture. Pacing is very important. That means, sitting at the desk for hours on end will more than likely result in some form of dysfunction. Get up and walk around as often as possible to avoid prolonged strain of neck muscles.
Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain
It’s quite common for patients to come to our clinic wanting treatment on their trapezius, neck and shoulder area. They also commonly complain of pain around the shoulder blade. There are various methods for treating these areas of muscular pain. Our clinic offers chiropractic, physiotherapy, laser therapy, athletic therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture as treatment options. Personally, I have found that a combination of Graston and Active Release is what gets the job done. Above this paragraph is a picture of Graston on the area of the trapezius, which tends to be a common area of pain and dysfunction. For more information, please call our clinic at 905.220.7858 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Szeto G, Straker L, O’Sullivan P. A comparison of symptomatic and asymptomatic office workers performing monotonous keyboard work-1: neck and shoulder muscle recruitment patterns. Manual Therapy 2005; 10: 270-280.
Szato G, Straker L, O’Sullivan P. Neck-shoulder muscle activity in general and task specific resting postures of symptomatic computer users with chronic neck pain. Manual Therapy 2009; 14: 338-345.