How to prevent neck pain at work

How to prevent neck pain at work

Whether you work in front of a computer or perform physical tasks at your job, poor posture and repetitive movements can lead to chronic neck pain.

“Pain in your neck can be different, depending on where it’s coming from,” says Emily Haithcoat, a physical therapist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Sharp pain usually comes from pain in the joints. If your neck feels tight, it usually means that a muscle in your neck is cramped.”

Either way, stretching throughout the day can help.

“Think chin and ears when your neck feels achy,” says Haithcoat. “Put your chin on your chest, and then slowly lift your chin to the ceiling. Next, touch your left ear to your left shoulder, and then your right ear to your right shoulder.”

She recommends repeating this exercise several times for a nice, gentle stretch and pain relief.

Just a few simple changes in your daily routine can help prevent neck pain in the first place. Here are three easy ways to stop an achy neck if you work in front of a computer:

  1. Get up and move. Frequent breaks are the best defense. Try to move from a seated position and stand or walk every 30 minutes.
  2. Practice ergonomic posture. Adjust your chair, keyboard and mouse so your elbows fall at a 90-degree angle and your eyes are in line with the middle or top of the computer screen. Adding a lumbar pillow on your chair can also help your posture.
  3. Adjust your screen. Changing the height of your screen or monitor to eye level eliminates the need to look down. Increasing the size of your document to 125% or more also helps.

Moving heavy items or gripping bulky materials at work can also hurt your neck. To prevent neck pain at a physical job, Haithcoat shares these three tips:

  1. Get help when lifting over 75 lbs. Use equipment such as hand trucks, carts and pallet jacks or ask a team member to help you.
  2. Keep your body aligned. When lifting and carrying heavy objects or boxes, keep them close to your body and avoid twisting and bending.
  3.  Avoid lifting from the ground up. Instead, keep lifts from between knee and shoulder height if possible.

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Carla Esser Lake