Neck pain can affect your ability to sit, stand, walk or even sleep properly, all of which effects your general health and mood. Modern lifestyles and work patterns are making it even more widespread. We’re all hunching over our devices far too much. In fact, anyone who works in a seated position can inadvertently strain their neck muscles if their posture is out of sync. One study found that 81% of UK office workers sit at their office desk for the equivalent of 67 days out of every year (4-9 hours a day)!
With the massive increase in home working in 2020, it’s safe to assume that even more people are ‘making do’ with a set-up that doesn’t support them ergonomically. Many new remote workers are setting up their laptop on the sofa or kitchen table. The long-term health impact is worrying, making it even more vital to invest in the best ergonomic products to prevent or reduce neck strain and pain.
This article examines the symptoms and causes of neck pain and some of the ways to prevent and relieve neck pain.
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Find out how neck pain can impact the productivity and attendance of employees.
Find out the incorrect posture in the workplace can cause neck pain.
Read about the common symptoms of neck pain.
Common posture mistakes that can cause neck pain.
Find out how to sit correctly in the office to prevent neck pain.
Recommended ergonomic products for neck pain.
Find out how you can ease neck pain at home.
We answer frequently asked questions on preventing neck pain.
The economic impact of chronic neck pain
Neck pain can lead to absenteeism and poor productivity. Alarmingly, a Global Burden of Disease study found that lower back and neck pain is the leading cause of ill health across all age groups in England, affecting well over 9 million people long-term.
According to a report in the healthcare news journal BMJ, neck pain not only constitutes a major personal burden but also affects the health system and economic structure of countries.
Yet, neck pain is often preventable, sometimes through the simple use of a monitor or laptop stand.
Why does sitting incorrectly cause neck pain?
Neck and shoulder pain is often linked to your body positioning when working, gaming or using your mobile phone. Most commonly, it is caused by the habit of leaning forwards or even slouching across your neck and shoulders. All of these habits pressurise or overly extend neck muscles.
Do you regularly twist your neck to get a better view of your screen or to avoid ambient light on your screen? This too puts an unnatural strain on muscles and nerves.
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
Maintaining bad posture while you work can result in aches and pains in your spine. However, symptoms are not always immediately apparent. For example, do you get up from your desk feeling stiff? Headaches and neck problems are often simultaneous when sitting badly or using electronic devices for long periods.
The start could even be tingling, or burning sensations in your neck or feeling like you have cricked your neck, pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle. You may also find yourself adopting bad head posture, such as through holding your head to one side, or raising or dropping your chin, to find a comfortable neck position.
Common mistakes in the office that cause neck pain
Task chairs at your workstation or within a home office can support or negatively affect the health of your spine. Even if you think your office chair is well constructed and comfortable, it could be creating unnatural angles, or putting cumulative negative pressure on your body’s core. You might even have your lower spine supported but still have your upper body positioned in a risky manner, which can cause pain. Look at your whole positioning and consider where stresses and strains occur, from a badly positioned wrist to an improperly arched spine.
How to sit correctly to prevent neck pain
The key to making a big improvement is an ergonomic office task chair, or even creating a sit-stand work station with a versatile electronics holder that can switch between both options.
You certainly need to position your body and devices in a way that gives you proper lumbar support, from the base of your spine all the way to your head. You should sit far back in your task chair so that it supports the natural curve in your spine, and your feet should touch the floor or a footrest. Then, ensure you don’t need to strain to see your laptop or monitor screen.
Ergonomic products for neck pain
The best ergonomic task chair for neck pain
The best office task chair for you depends on your body dimensions and preferred work positions. The trick is to make sure it leaves you sitting straight, and your chair should always provide adequate back support or a backrest to support the spine’s natural “S” curve.
If you can find an office task chair with a headrest that still allows you to work easily, that’s even better, as it provides adequate neck support. You should also work from a chair with armrests if this is possible, as this will ensure your arms are close to your side and will help prevent tension from developing in the shoulders, neck and arms. This should be coupled with bespoke products to support your devices at the optimum height and reach from your office chair.
You can read more about ensuring your office chair is ergonomic here.
The best ergonomic pillow for neck pain
A good neck pillow for your chair cradles your cervical spine as you work, taking tremendous pressure off your neck. An adjustable headrest with memory foam is particularly effective, as it can provide therapeutic level support and comfort. Memory foam’s flexibility ensures consistent comfort and pain relief to your neck. Some pillows come with elastic straps, which allows you to fit it onto your chair easily.
Neck pillows come in many different materials, and it can be difficult to choose which one will be right for you. You’ll find them in leather, cotton, polyester, mesh, and a lot more. Mesh is lightweight and breathable, whereas leather supports tend to be more elegant; however, they can have a bit more weight to them. Cotton and nylon combinations are incredibly soft, however, aren’t as breathable as mesh.
Working from home with neck pain
The solutions for homeworking are much the same as in a formal office environment.
Even a simple and low-cost laptop stand can make a big difference in how you position yourself. There are some useful work aids designed for home offices, including our easy to install Vision H Ergonomic Workstation, with its neat and ideally structured frame to mount your monitor.
Vision H Ergonomic Workstation
- Available in white
- The range includes a single monitor support, a dual monitor support and a single monitor and laptop support
- Optional 3x power and 1x USB Type A&C charger sockets
- Includes cable management clips to secure cables to the arm and pole sections
- Supports monitors and laptops up to 5kgs (2x 5kgs when used with a dual monitor support or a single monitor and laptop support)
- Quick and easy to install
You can visit our homeworking range for more products to help you work from home ergonomically.
You can also improvise at home through using stable objects to heighten your monitor or even laptop, if you have a separate mouse and keyboard. You can also use a cushion to create a footrest, or place a supportive pillow behind your head to use as a headrest.
How can I ease neck pain myself?
Over the counter pain medication in recommended doses can give relief, as can heat gels and cushions you warm in the microwave.
There are gentle exercises that improve your neck muscles and combat pain too. Holding it still can worsen the issue, so instead try a series of gentle neck stretches and movements.
When to seek professional help
If the pain is long term or severe – or it’s linked to dizziness, fever or vision issues – consult your doctor.
Frequently asked questions
What exercise is good for neck pain?
Anything that moves and exercises the muscles gently is beneficial. This includes putting your chin down to your chest, then raising it again, tilting your head sideways slowly, or looking left and right a few times.
Can a rounded pillow help with neck pain?
A pillow designed to support your head, neck and shoulders in bed is worth considering, depending on your physique and sleep position, including rounded and memory foam pillows.
Is heat or ice better for neck pain?
It depends on the type and source of the pain. For example, a sports injury or sudden jolt can inflame neck muscles, which can be iced to find relief. A stiff and painful neck from bad positioning can benefit from heat treatments to loosen muscles.
Can the wrong pillow make neck pain worse?
This is certainly true. If you are arching your neck or sleeping with your head angled or too elevated, it can all put additional stress on your muscles and nerves.
Do neck exercises actually work?
The right kind of exercises work, such as neck rotation and stretching. Anything jarring or high impact (such as weights or cardio exercise classes) can make neck pain worse.
How do you stop your neck from hurting at your desk?
Take regular breaks from your workstation to stretch out and do gentle exercises. This runs in tandem with buying ergonomic task chairs and monitor support systems.
How do you tell if you pulled a muscle in your neck?
This would manifest as localised pain, which can be sharp, stabbing, throbbing or even a muscle spasm that makes it feel rigid or severely stiff. Treatment is much the same as postural neck pain, and it will ease in time.