Updated: Jul 16
Ergonomic workstations and set ups are key to avoiding those aches and pains of a 9-5 day and does not just apply to the office! These tips are also useful when you are sitting on your couch, driving your car, or using your mobile phone.
A sedentary lifestyle or occupation can increase your chance of lower back pain and neck pain, especially if seated with poor posture or if sitting in a slouch position for a prolonged time. There is even a nickname associated with posture influenced by poor posture called “tech neck” seen with the increase of phone and computer use or what physiotherapists know as cervical lordosis. If you have pain associated with sitting at a desk, a physiotherapist can be immensely helpful. We can provide you education about your best sitting position, how to best set up your workspace, and provide hands on treatment and exercises to help reduce and manage your pain. Check out our other blogs on Lower Back pain and Neck pain!
1. Ensure proper head position, so that you are not overextending or pushing out through your chin.
2. Ensure to maintain a 90-degree angle at your elbows, with upper arms alongside your body and forearms horizontal. Your keyboard and mouse should in a comfortable position and comfortable reach.
3. Maintain a 90-degree angle with your knees as well. Adjustable seats will allow you to find the correct height. Ensure that you maintain neutral spine, where you are not overextending or slouching.
4. Your screen height should be set so that the top of the screen meets your eye level or lower. Ensure the view distance is approximately 1 arm’s length away to help reduce visual fatigue. Your head should not be tilting up or down towards the screen. When using a laptop, ensure to adjust the angle of the screen to allow a gentle bend in your neck.
5. Keeping your feet flat on the floor while avoiding crossing your legs can help you maintain a good posture.
Now that we have covered the basics, lets talk Tech Neck and what physiotherapy can do to help.
We see evidence of Tech Neck manifest as poor cervical posture, often with a protruding chin and increased curvature of the cervical spine. Drooping and rounded shoulders with reduced thoracic movement are also common features of poor cervical posture. We see this in a range of people, but particularly in those who spend long hours at the computer or on their phones.
The combination of weakness in your deep neck flexors, pain in the trapezius muscles and headaches are symptoms that can suggest an issue with cervical posture.
As Physiotherapists, we take a multi-faceted approach to help relieve pain and improve posture; using manual therapy and prescription exercises. During treatment we typically assess cervical range of movement and aim to relieve any muscle tightness that may be contributing to the poor posture. We will also look at exercises that have an opposing force to those that pull your head and chin forward. These include back strengthening exercises for back muscles, activation of deep neck flexors and stretching of muscles such as pectoralis in your chest. As for manual therapy, we can use a combination of hands on and dry needling to help restore joint mobility.
Check out our blog on headaches here, for some additional tips on dealing with headaches that stem from the neck.
Handy tip #1: Try these exercises and stretches at home or in the gym to help reset your posture after a long day of work.
1. Pec stretches.
There are a few ways to stretch your chest, either using a foam roller or a doorway.
Doorway – put your arms at a 90 degree angle against a door frame and lean through until you feel a stretch in your chest.
Foam roller – using a long foam roller, lie on it so that the foam roller is running down the length of your spine with your head supported. Open your arms out to the side until you feel a stretch through your chest.
2. Rowing exercises.
This exercise focusses on drawing shoulders and shoulder blades backwards, and is helpful for strengthening your back. Use this in conjunction with a pec stretch for best results. There are many ways of performing rows, including using a resistance band, barbells, dumbbells or cable machines. Focus on drawing the shoulder blades in towards the centre of your back.
3. Chin tucks for deep neck flexor activation.
While seated or lying while looking straight ahead, move your chin backwards as if giving yourself a double chin, ensuring to do this exercise slowly. Try not to tuck too hard or far, but enough to feel the back of your neck activating and stretching. Aim to keep the muscles in the front of your neck relaxed.
You can also advance this movement with the use of a ribbon band, available here, which allows additional resistance for more activation.
4. Thread the needle stretch.
Start on your hands and knees, reach one arm up towards the ceiling, twisting through your thoracic spine, you should feel a stretch opening your chest. Hold this briefly before then threading that arm down and through the "eye" of the needel created by your opposite arm. Hold this position for a static stretch for a few seconds before reversing the movement and reach your hand back up towards the ceiling.
5. Trigger through your neck.
Using a trigger ball or even a tennis ball, you can roll though your pec, back and neck to help relieve some of the tension. Or check out these nifty devices we carry in the clinic designed for those difficult spots!
6. Try out a posture device.
We carry a device called the Posture Medic that helps you focus on correcting your posture. It can also double as a resistance band that can be useful for exercise as well!
Handy tip #2: Don’t forget to look away from your screen, try following the 20-20-20 method rule.
Look away from your screen every 20 minutes, at an object 20 metres away, for 20 seconds. This will help reduce eye strain.
Handy tip #3: Regularly get up out of your chair, it is important to take breaks and stretch out your arms and legs. Use this as an excuse to go and get another coffee!
Sources and Image https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/19102/guide-ergo-comp-workstations.pdf https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ergonomic_workstation.png. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texting_and_Mobile_Usage_Does_to_Your_Spine.jpeg