Doctor's Casebook: Home working, and how to avoid neck and shoulder pain

Last week I talked about the problem that enforced working from home can cause people’s backs, when they have to adapt to working on their computer in a less than ideal work space.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Changing position frequently when working is essential to prevent aches and pains

It is not just the back, but the neck and shoulders that can suffer, too.

This has been the subject of research, so I thought it would be worth adding a few tips that have been suggested as a result.

When you are standing, the spine can easily support the ten to 12 pounds that the head weighs.

When you are sitting and your head is jutted forwards to as much as a 45 degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum with a long lever lifting an object.

The effect of this is that the muscles weight of your head and neck is increased to about 45 pounds.

In a study, 87 students were asked to sit upright with their heads properly aligned on their necks so that there was no discomfort. They were then asked to turn their heads.

Next, they were asked to scrunch their necks down and jut their heads forwards and then turn their heads.

They found that 92 per cent could turn their heads further when the neck was not scrunched and the head jutted forward.

This was repeated, but this time they had to scrunch the neck position for 30 seconds first.

This time 98 per cent reported some transient pain in the head, neck or eyes.

They also did electomyograph (EMG) readings of the trapezius muscle, the large shoulder muscles.

This showed significant tension when the muscles were scrunched.

They suggest that you should keep monitoring your posture when sitting at the computer screen.

Try imagining your head suspended by a thread from the ceiling to get into the correct position and keep checking it. Also, use a larger font, use computer glasses or lift your computer on a stand so that you look at it straight ahead.

Other research from the USA has shown that regular iPad and tablet users are even more likely to have pain problems.

Time is the main factor, but females are two times more likely to have pains than males.

The C-shape posture that you get into, especially if using a device on your lap, is again the main issue.