It’s been nearly three years since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many Americans to start working from home in early 2020. Remote work quickly became the new normal, and that trend hasn’t gone away.
In fact, 58% of Americans still work from home at least once a week, and they enjoy the flexibility it offers. Increased productivity, nonexistent commutes, and wearing sweatpants to work are all great — but health experts have noticed another growing trend that isn’t so good: neck pain.
If you’ve started experiencing neck pain over the last few years, your home office could be to blame. Our team at Manhattan Orthopedics is here to help you understand why it happens and how to reduce neck pain while working from home.
Is working from home a pain in your neck?
An estimated 80% of people suffer neck pain during their lifetimes. It’s extremely common, and it’s often caused by injury, degeneration, and, increasingly, working from home.
Why? Because spending your workday hunched over your screen puts strain on your musculoskeletal system, and that strain can turn into chronic pain.
When you look down at your phone, tablet, or laptop screen, the muscles in the back of your neck support the weight of your head. Spending all day in this position causes muscle fatigue, strain, and pain.
“Tech neck” is the nickname that healthcare providers have given this type of neck pain. It causes symptoms like:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Neck stiffness
- Tingling or numbness in hands
Sound familiar? It’s time to do something about it.
How to stop WFH neck pain
Neck pain isn’t normal, and you shouldn’t neglect symptoms when they arise. If you’re worried that working from home is causing your neck pain, consider trying these lifestyle changes.
1. Set up an ergonomic workstation
It’s tempting to work from the comfort of your couch, but hunching over your screen all day is the top cause of tech neck. Instead, set up a home office to take undue stress off your neck and back.
Choose an adjustable, cushioned chair with lumbar support, and sit at a sturdy table or desk. Adjust your chair so your feet sit flat on the floor with your knees at a 90° angle. Your forearms should rest comfortably on the tabletop, with your elbows at about 90° too.
Sit upright with your head in a neutral position, and adjust the height of your computer screen so it’s at eye level. Looking straight ahead at your screen — instead of down — helps take pressure off your neck.
2. Take regular breaks
Even with an ergonomic workspace, it’s important to take breaks from sitting throughout the day. Aim to get up at least once an hour, and consider setting a reminder on your phone to help you keep track.
Stand, take a quick walk, or just switch positions for a while. If possible, try a standing desk or go for a walk while you’re on the phone to help eliminate muscle stiffness and pain.
3. Try gentle exercises
We often recommend a few at-home remedies for mild neck pain and stiffness.
To stretch your neck, sit upright and keep your shoulders and back stationary. Bring your chin down to your chest and then lift up. Tilt your head back, and then look up. Look forward, and turn your head to one side and then the other. Move slowly, and hold each position for 15-30 seconds.
You can also try heat or ice therapy to ease neck discomfort. Apply a hot or cold compress for a few minutes at a time, and then switch.
4. Visit a neck pain specialist
If your neck pain lasts more than a few days, it’s time to see a specialist. At Manhattan Orthopedics, we review your symptoms and do a thorough exam before developing a customized treatment plan for you.
Work-from-home neck pain generally improves with conservative care. We can help you make ergonomic improvements to your home office, and we may also prescribe a series of exercises and stretches, physical therapy, or pain medication.
Working from home shouldn’t be a pain in the neck. Contact Manhattan Orthopedics to book an appointment, and start finding relief from your pain.