For a lot of us, the majority of the working week is spent sitting in front of a laptop, and this can lead to a bad crick in the neck, as well as some serious long-term health problems. So, the question is, are you sitting incorrectly in front of your computer? Not a lot of people know that the pain we experience may actually be down to something as minor as the position of our head. If you want avoid spending huge amounts of money on massage treatments and chiropractor appointments, all you need to do is change the angle of your neck very slightly. Yeah, it's that simple.
As was demonstrated in a recent study published by scientific journal Biofeedback, poor positioning of the neck and head while sitting in front of a computer can lead to, as EruekAlert put it, "fatigue, headaches, poor concentration [and] increased muscle tension," due to the compression it causes in your neck.
The study, carried out by a group of researchers from San Francisco State University's Institute for Holistic Health and Department of Health Education, was intended to promote "greater awareness of muscle use and misuse," with two separate tests being conducted to demonstrate the issue.
In the first test, a group of 87 participants were asked to to sit in an upright position and turn their heads. They were then asked to slouch (or "scrunch" their necks), move their heads forward, and try to turn their heads again. Results showed that 92 percent of the participants could turn their heads significantly farther when in the upright position.
The second test involved 125 participants, all of whom were asked to scrunch their necks for 30 seconds. Among this group, more than 98 percent reported feeling some level of discomfort in their head, neck, or eyes once the test was finished.
In addition, during this second test, researchers placed 12 volunteers under more careful scrutiny, monitoring their muscles with electromyography equipment. From this, it was discovered that the trapezius muscle experienced increased amounts of tension while participants sat in the scrunched, head-forward position.
"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," Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health explained to EurekAlert. "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."
Ouch. So, what can you do to combat this? Don't worry, you can easily change your habits to correct your posture. The trick is to become aware of how you're positioning your head and neck. Find yourself craning your neck forward to look at a screen? It may be time for a trip to the optometrist and a new pair of glasses. Alternatively, you could just increase the font size on your screen.
Feel like you're forever looking down at your laptop? Put it on a stand, and connect a detachable keyboard, which, according to the NHS, should be "about 4 to 6 inches" away from you on the desk, in order to "rest your wrists between bouts of typing." Other tips provided by the NHS include getting a supportive chair, positioning your mouse "as close to you as possible," placing your feet on the floor, avoiding crossing your legs, and positioning your screen correctly. On the latter, they advise:
"Your screen should be directly in front of you. A good guide is to place the monitor about an arm's length away, with the top of the screen roughly at eye level. To achieve this, you may need a monitor stand. If the screen is too high or too low, you'll have to bend your neck, which can be uncomfortable."
As the Biofeedback study concluded, "paying attention" is the best thing you can do. Your employer is legally obliged to complete a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) workplace assessment and reduce risk for you if you're in pain, as well as providing you with an eye test, so definitely take advantage of that if you need it. It's all about being in tune with your body and listening to its complaints, y'all. You'll feel all the better for it.