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One of the most common problems I treated in my chiropractic practice was neck pain.
And, can you guess what almost everyone with the problem had in common?
Hours and hours every day on the computer.
Yep, computers really are a pain in the neck and not just when they suddenly shut down and lose all the work you’ve done over the past day.
That’s because most of us ignore the advice our moms gave us as kids…
Posture is everything
After all, how often do you see someone sitting at a computer jutting their head forward to look more closely at the screen?
How often do you do it yourself?
Well, I’ve got news for you…
This poor posture may seem harmless but the truth is that it compresses your neck and not only cause headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, and problems concentrating, but over time it can actually damage the vertebrae in your neck, and even limit your ability to turn your head.
“When your posture is tall and erect, the muscles of your back can easily support the weight of your head and neck — as much as 12 pounds,” explains San Francisco State University Professor of Holistic Health, Erik Peper. “But when your head juts forward at a 45-degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds. It is not surprising people get stiff necks and shoulder and back pain.”
Yep, you read that right…
If you sit at the computer, leaning forward to get a better view of the screen, it’s like you’ve sat a 45-pound weight on top of your neck!
And, that has real consequences…
Neck pain, muscle tension, and limited motion
The team at San Francisco State University tested the effects of this head and neck position in a recent study published in the journal Biofeedback.
First, they asked 87 students to sit upright with their heads properly aligned on their necks and asked them to turn their heads. Then the students were asked to “scrunch” their necks and jut their heads forward (that bad posture too many of us use at the computer).
And, a whopping 92 percent couldn’t turn their head as far after scrunching – it had limited their range of movement immediately!
Then, the researchers performed one more test…
In this test, 125 students scrunched their necks for 30 seconds. Afterward, 98 percent reported experienced pain in their head, neck or eyes.
Seriously, 98 percent had neck pain after just 30 seconds!
And, it didn’t stop there…
The researchers also monitored 12 students with electromyography equipment and found that when the students scrunched in that head forward position, the tension in their trapezius muscles increased significantly. (Those are the muscles that run down your neck and into your shoulders and upper back.)
That’s a lot of problems simply from poor posture.
Sit up straight
So, when you’re sitting at the computer, be aware of your position.
The researchers actually suggest that you purposefully scrunch your neck and push your head forward to experience what you shouldn’t do so that you will be more likely to catch yourself.
The position to shoot for is with your head is aligned on top of your neck, as if held by an invisible thread from the ceiling. It can also help to increase the font on your computer screen or wear reading glasses if your eyesight is contributing to the problem. Or, do what I do and use a standing desk so that not only is your computer at eye level and you’re not tempted to lean forward, you also spend less time sitting to improve your health.
For more tips on how to improve your posture and your workspace for better spinal health and less pain, check out these tips from Dr. Mark Wiley, an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, who holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine.
- Computers can be a real pain in the neck — EurekAlert!