By Margarita Gurevich
The September article of GHGTM, Work Related Injuries, discussed how certain occupations correlate with particular types of injuries. In this article, we will specifically talk about how some jobs can contribute to neck and shoulder pain.
Neck and shoulder pain comes from computing and bad ergonomics.
If your work involves sitting in front of a computer for prolonged periods of time the feeling of having sore neck and shoulders after a long day’s work might be very real to you. That is not at all surprising if we analyse the typical posture of a person who is sitting in front of a computer.
Generally, this involves the following:
- sitting with legs crossed
- leaning towards the desk with a hunched back
- forward head posture
- forearms only partly resting on the table
- tense shoulders
The outcome? Neck and shoulder pain.
By the way, this does not mean that there is anything necessarily structurally wrong with your neck and/or shoulders. In our physiotherapy practice we often use the ‘bent finger’ analogy to explain how pain can arise from poor posture even when there is no structural abnormality. In a nutshell if you take a healthy finger, bend it back and hold it in that position for a long period of time, it will start to feel sore even though there is nothing wrong with the finger. Similarly, with our neck and shoulders, if we repetitively hold them in a strained position, they will start to get sore. If this occurs on a background of a physical problem, such as a disc bulge for example, the pain will of course be even worse.
So, what can we do to help the situation?
Your physiotherapist can give you ergonomic advice and arrangements can even be made for a physiotherapist to come to your workplace to assess your work station and make necessary adjustments. There are also things which you can do yourself, right now. For instance, it is a very good idea to set a reminder on your phone or computer, prompting you to get up every hour or so and go for a short walk or stand up and do some gentle stretches.
This will immediately take some load off your neck, shoulders and back.
It is also extremely important to have a clear understanding of what a good work setup is; it involves the following points. Why not try this when you are next at work?
- Make sure that the chair which is being used has a good lumbar support; alternatively, a lumbar roll can be used.
- Push the chair right in and make sure that only the elbows are hanging off the desk.
- Always using a portable mouse if working on a laptop.
- Make sure that there is a 90-degree bend at the hips, knees and ankles.
Additionally, it is very helpful to work on strengthening your postural muscles and core muscles.
Try this simple exercise which is aimed at the postural muscles:
Standing up, move the shoulders down and back. Make sure that you don’t arch your lower back. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 12 times. This can be done up to 3-4 times per day and is a good exercise to do after sitting for a long time. Make sure, though, that if you get any pain which is not of a muscular nature, that you stop the exercise straight away and speak to your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist can also show you other simple and effective exercises which improve your posture and core strength.
Clinical Pilates is a very effective approach which specifically works on the posture and core. When your core and postural muscles are strong you are far less likely to injure yourself at work.