This last year has tested our tolerance for computer time. Even those of you that work on a computer for a living, or do now since the pandemic, may find that sitting or standing in front of a screen all day takes its toll on your body. To protect your neck, your health and your sanity, frequent breaks from electronics is key.
The increased use of technology predisposes us to poor breathing patterns and poor posture – rounded shoulders, forward head, and a slumped posture – which strain our bodies. Whether you suffer from neck pain or not, it’s good practice to change positions and move your body before feeling the effects of not doing these things.
Posture is important
You may not even notice how your posture has worsened during the day until you’re uncomfortable. Only then do you move and fidget to relieve pain and stiffness. Consider being proactive this year! Set a timer on your computer to remind you to stretch (suggestions following), or make it a point to get up and walk at lunch.
Breathe low and slow
Don’t forget to breathe! Notice what happens to the way you breathe when you are typing or deep in thought. Do you hold your breath? For most people, their breath becomes shortened and shallow, breathing mostly in the chest. The muscles in your neck and upper shoulders may feel stiff and tight because you are slumping AND using these muscles to help you breathe. Catch yourself during the day. If you feel muscle tension, guide your breath deeper and slow down the rate at which you breathe. Close your eyes for several minutes and focus on the slow, low inhale as you follow your breath with your mind – cool air in through the nose moving deep in the belly; warm air slowly moves out. Do this mini breathing exercise a couple times a day and notice a difference in how you feel (mentally and physically) at the end of the day.
Aim for an ideal ergonomic set up
It helps to set yourself up for success. This means doing the best you can to have a designated work space where you can concentrate, see the screen clearly and sit in a chair with a desk that is ergonomically decent instead of the couch. Mayo Clinic offers good suggestions for a proper desk set up here. If you can shift a few things around to make yourself comfortable, it can help a lot. It’s been nine months since this pandemic. It’s about time you got a decent chair (insert wink emoji).
Attached are a few stretches that will help undo the strain from long hours on a computer. Try them out!
If you have any questions or want to learn more strategies to manage neck pain, contact me below.