You might assume that desk jobs are the safest option. After all, the dangers are limited. You’re not operating machinery, doing heavy lifting, or working outside in the elements. You spend your day sitting a desk in a quiet, air-conditioned office. What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, you may not be at risk for a traumatic injury, but you’re almost guaranteed to develop chronic pain, which can lead to permanent injury if not treated. Neck pain is one of the most common physical complaints among adults around the world, and it is an even worse problem among people who work office jobs that require them to use a computer for most of the day.
In a 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, researchers found that among participants who work while sitting or leaning, 25.6% reported always or usually experiencing neck pain. That’s actually a larger percentage than among people who spend their work day lifting or carrying heavy loads (25.0%). So much for desk jobs being the “safe” work environment.
Why Does an Office Job Cause Neck Pain?
The reason that office jobs cause neck pain is because most people are adapting to their desk setup rather than adapting their workstation to fit them. They lean forward to see a computer screen that’s too far away, tilt their head back to look at a screen that’s too high, or slouch in their chair because it’s too low to the ground. All of these issues compromise your posture, and sitting with poor posture places tension and pressure on joints all over your body — including your neck. This is why people who work in offices also tend to have problems with back pain.
Case Study of Neck Pain Caused by Sitting at a Desk All Day
Samira is a computer programmer whose job often requires her to work 10-12 hours per day at her desk. Her office is outdated, and the workstations haven’t been replaced or updated in many years. She finds it difficult to arrange her monitor, desk, and chair in a comfortable way, so she just tries to ignore her discomfort and work in spite of it.
However, those 10-hour days take a toll, and she develops a persistent neck pain. At first, the aches would only happen at the end of a long day staring at her computer and would go away by the next morning. But eventually the neck pain stopped going away and would bother her all day long. It became painful to do work at her desk, because the position put so much strain on her neck and spine.
Concerned, Samira made an appointment with her doctor, who told her that her desk was likely the cause of her neck pain. They recommended that Samira speak with her boss about getting a desk that was more adjustable, so she could find an ergonomic arrangement for her workstation. They also gave her some exercises to relieve muscle tension.
Samira spoke to her boss, who agreed to replace her desk with an ergonomic workstation, including a monitor mount. Within a couple weeks, Samira’s neck pain had gone away completely. She no longer underestimates the importance of a comfortable desk and workstation!
How to Prevent Neck Pain From Working at a Computer
If you use a computer for work, it is essential that you have an ergonomic arrangement between your desk, chair, and monitor. Your desk should be at a height that allows you to rest your arms on the surface at a 90-degree angle, and your chair should allow your legs to bend at a 90-degree angle.
To achieve the best position for your monitor, we recommend using a monitor mount. Staring down at a laptop will strain your neck badly over time. Your monitor should be elevated to eye level directly in front of you to encourage a neutral neck position. It should also be 20-25 inches away from your face and tilted away from you at a 10-degree angle. The idea with setting up your monitor and computer desk is that you should be able to sit and read your screen comfortably from a relaxed upright position — no slouching, leaning, or squinting.
A monitor mount is the easiest way to find the perfect distance, height, and tilt for your screen. Monitor mounts suspend your monitor above the desk surface and allow for great flexibility in positioning the monitor. Because they are so easy to adjust, they are also a great feature for sit-stand desks. You can adapt your monitor position whether you’re sitting or standing, since your body position in relation to your screen will change.
Your desk job might be a pain in the neck, but it shouldn’t be your monitor’s fault.