Neck pain and back pain from sitting at your desk is very common. Here are some quick tips to upgrade your work space and decrease the tension in your neck and back!
Lower your chair more than you think
Have a seat at your desk and pay attention to how high or low your chair is. Ideally, your chair is low enough that your feet are flat on the ground and your legs are parallel to the horizon. Your feet should not be dangling or straining to reach the floor. By having your feet flat on the ground, you are able to support your legs and hips without putting strain on your low back to hold them up. By having your thighs parallel to the horizon, you are keeping the blood flow to your legs balanced and stable, and not allowing too much blood to rush down to your feet.
If your chair is too high and your thighs are not parallel, you may be allowing too much blood flow to reach your legs and not allowing enough to flow back up to your body. This can lead to pains in your legs, swelling in your feet, or even some numbness and tingling. It may also feel like your legs fall asleep quickly. By lowering your chair and having your feet flat on the ground, you will also increase the likelihood that you have to look up towards your computer screen rather than down. This will alleviate tension on the back of your neck and allow your tight neck muscles to relax. Simply by lowering your chair, you can alleviate stress on your legs and more importantly your neck.
Raise your screen with a stack of books
Once you’ve lowered your chair, you may notice that you are looking more up at your computer screen. I encourage you to raise your computer screen even more by putting a stack of books underneath it. Whether you are using a laptop or a desktop computer, raising the screen will force you to look up when you are working. Similar to what happened when you lowered your chair, you automatically corrected your posture and removed tension from your neck by raising your computer and looking up.
When you are looking up rather than down, you are allowing the muscles in the back of your neck to relax. We often experience neck pain, neck tension, and stiffness by staying in the same hunched over position for extended periods of time. If you can take the chronic pressure off your neck by raising your computer screen and looking up instead of down, you will likely notice a decrease in neck pain and less tension in your upper back almost immediately.
If you have nagging neck pain, especially after sitting at your desk for a long period of time, it makes sense that your neck would eventually get strained from trying to hold your head up. Taking pressure off your neck by looking up will allow you to relax and allow the tension in your neck and upper back to calm down.
Roll a towel behind your low back
Tension and pain in the low back is often caused by poor posture, and allowing the low back to get rounded. There is supposed to be a curve in your low back while you are seated, called a lordotic curve. This curve is especially important to keep the low back muscles relaxed and avoid chronic tension. When this curve is not supported, and the back straightens out or even worse begins to curve forward, the muscles supporting your low back become very tense and very tired. This is what leads to a lot of the low back pain we experience when sitting at a desk.
I encourage you to get a bath towel, fold it in half on the long edge and roll it up into a big pillow. Place the rolled towel behind your low back against the chair and lean backwards into it. Do you feel the curve that it’s creating? Great! This is what you should aim for when you are working at your desk, especially for extended periods of time. This will allow the muscles in the low back to relax and “turn off” so that they are not trying to support the rest of your body the whole time. When these muscles are able to relax because they are being supported by the towel, you will experience less tension and low back pain over time.
Lean your head back against the headrest
This is a simple one. Sit up straight and feel the back of your head against your headrest. If your chair is too short or does not have a headrest, I encourage you to shop for one that is tall enough to support your head. This is very important to alleviate the demand of your neck muscles. If you are able to consistently lean your head back against your head rest, you will give your neck muscles a break and feel relief from the tension in your neck and upper back.
Set an hourly alarm on your phone
Pull out your phone and set a repeating timer for every hour. Getting up and taking a walk around your house may make a huge difference in the tension on your neck, especially if you are working long hours. Whenever you hear the timer go off, get up immediately and take a short walk. That walk can be around your house, to the kitchen for a glass of water or a snack, to the bathroom, or maybe even a longer break to take your dog outside. However you spend your break and no matter how much time is spent, it makes a huge difference to get your body out of the stationary position of sitting at your desk. After doing this for a few days, you will almost immediately notice a difference in your neck pain and lower back pain.
If you try out these tips, please share them with a friend or family member who is also suffering from neck and low back pain due to long hours at the desk! In this day in age, it’s a very common problem. Oftentimes the solution is simple, and consistency is the key!