Do you spend a lot of time working at a computer or slumped over a desk? Do you have chronic neck and upper back pain from prolonged computer use? For many computer workers, improper work station setup and poor posture may be contributing factors for "computer neck."
Quite simply, "computer neck" is caused by sitting with poor posture for prolonged periods of time in front of a computer. When our head and neck are held in a neutral, upright position, very little muscular effort is required to hold up our head. If we leave neutral, however, and allow our head and shoulders to roll forward, then our neck and upper back muscles must constantly contract to hold our head up. This constant engagement of the posterior neck muscles leads to an overuse syndrome, which results in muscular irritation and pain.
In order to decrease the overuse of your neck and upper back muscles, it is essential to have a proper ergonomic setup for our work station. Here are a few key points:
Monitor: Do place your monitor directly in front of you at eye level, so you do not need to look down or to the side.
Keyboard: Do place your keyboard at a height where your shoulders, elbows and wrists are relaxed. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle with forearms resting upon your chair's armrests.
Mouse: Do place your mouse as close to your keyboard as possible to minimize extra shoulder and arm movement.
Telephone: Do use a speaker phone or headset. Avoid pinching a phone between your neck and shoulders.
Chair: Do use a height-adjustable chair where your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. Your chair's backrest should conform to the natural curve in your lower back.
With a few adjustments, you should be able to sit at your computer with less discomfort. However, even with a proper ergonomic setup, it is important to take frequent breaks and avoid sitting for longer than 30-60 minutes at a time. Stand, stretch and walk around for a few minutes every hour to give your body a break.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been helping patients with computer neck and other neck problems for the past three years on Maui. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.