In recent years, the number of Americans working from home (WFH) has tripled. There’s no doubt that WFH offers many benefits, from avoiding lengthy and frustrating commutes to more time with family to saving money on lunches out.
Yet for many people, WFH comes with an unfortunate downside: new or worsening neck pain. Many factors related to remote work can contribute to this frustrating and painful condition.
At Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Arlington, Virginia, our providers specialize in diagnosing and treating neck pain, including neck pain triggered by WFH conditions.
We’ve put together this brief guide to help you better understand the link between neck pain and WFH, things you can do to improve your condition, and how we can help if you can’t find relief.
The link between neck pain and working from home
At least one-quarter of Americans struggle with neck pain, and working from home could be the cause or the reason it’s getting worse. This is largely due to the way we sit and move (or don’t move) during our work day.
If you’re like most people, you tip your head forward for long periods as you work, like when you look down at a laptop, hunch over papers at your desk, or scroll through messages on your phone.
When your head rests forward, it adds stress to your cervical spine and pulls the nerves, discs, ligaments, and muscles out of their natural position. This can cause swelling and discomfort. Over time, it can lead to more serious issues, including:
- Migraines and headaches
- Pinched nerves
- Joint and muscle strain
- Slipped intervertebral discs
- Worsening degeneration of bone or discs
And if you have an existing issue, the strain on your neck caused by WFH can make it worse.
Tips for avoiding neck pain while WFH
The good news is that if you’re working from home, there are things you can do to avoid developing neck pain or making existing neck pain worse. Here’s a look at our top tips:
1. Get moving
Experts recommend taking a longer exercise/walking break for 15-30 minutes at least once in the middle of your work day. You’ll also want to take quick 30-60 second microbreaks throughout the day to roll your shoulders, do some head circles, and otherwise give yourself a break from sitting and staring straight ahead. This helps ease the strain on your spine and prevent neck pain.
2. Check screen height
When you’re working from home, it’s easy to slouch on the sofa with your laptop. Over time, this can lead to a serious pain in the neck since looking down moves the discs in your cervical spine out of place.
To minimize neck pain, pay attention to screen height. Place your main screen at eye level using a riser or sturdy books or boxes. Try not to use your phone or tablet for lengthy assignments, like drafting longer documents or emails.
3. Practice good posture
To avoid neck pain, be sure to keep good posture in mind as you sit and stand throughout your work day. Place both feet flat on the floor and hold your back straight. This helps evenly distribute your weight. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down (not hunched toward your ears), and make sure your head doesn’t lean forward.
4. Check your eyes
Sometimes the root cause of neck pain is in your eyes. If you lean forward to see your screen, you can put added strain on your neck and cause serious issues, like a herniated disc.
Be sure to keep your annual eye exam and wear glasses or contact lenses as prescribed. You’ll also want to be sure your work area is well lit to avoid craning your neck to see your work.
5. Get an ergonomic chair
Since chances are you spend most of your workday sitting, it’s worth investing in the chair you sit on. Look for an ergonomically designed chair that has lumbar support, allows you to adjust the back and seat, and has a headrest to support your head and neck.
Expert help for WFH neck pain
If you’re experiencing ongoing neck pain and the above tips don’t help, an underlying issue could be the cause. At Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists, our providers diagnose the cause and create a personalized neck pain treatment plan, which may include:
- Prescriptive lifestyle changes
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Medications (e.g., pain relievers; muscle relaxants)
- Facet joint injections
- Medial branch nerve blocks
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Epidural steroid injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Intrathecal drug delivery
Get more tips about avoiding WFH neck pain or learn which therapies are right for you by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Northern Virginia.