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Neck pain is one of the usual problems among office workers, especially for those who are using computers intensively. People who are experiencing neck problems can also have some issues concentrating on their work. Often, the result is a poor quality of work. Even more, few of us fail to realize the dangers of neck pain at work, especially when sitting at a desk for several hours.
An online article describes neck pain to feel like stiffness or severe pain. It also mentioned:
"Pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back, or arms, or it may cause a headache. Neck movement may be limited, usually more to one side than the other. Neck pain refers to pain anywhere from the area at the base of the skull into the shoulders."
A 2007 study discussed the various individual and work-related risk factors for neck pain among office workers. It found out the following:
"The worldwide trend is for people to use computers for longer periods daily, due to increased computer-based tasks at work as well as during leisure activities. The introduction of the computer into the workplace has meant changes in work organization and different use of workers' physical and mental potential. It is generally agreed that work-related neck disorders' etiology is multidimensional, which is associated with, and influenced by a complex array of individual, physical and psychosocial factors. Among these various risk factors, work-related psychosocial factors appear to play a major role."
A Mayo Clinic article also stated that working at a desk is the common cause of neck pain and back pain. A part of the article mentioned:
"Working at a desk is a common cause of back and neck pain, often because you accommodate your workstation rather than the other way around. For instance, many people strain to see a computer monitor that is too far away, too low, too high, too small, or too dim. This compromises good posture. The average human head weighs almost 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) — the equivalent of a bowling ball! When your neck is bent to 45 degrees, your head exerts nearly 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of force on your neck. In addition to straining joints and muscles in your neck and shoulders, the pressure affects your breathing and mood."
The same article also recommends some tips on getting rid of stress and causing neck problems. It also pointed out the importance of improving ergonomics to promote comfort and efficiency in the workplace.
Neck injuries leading to Pain are commonly caused by the following:
- Stiff muscles and tendons. You may often hear the term "stiff neck," described as having uncomfortable pain due to stiffness and cracking in the neck. It can be due to a sudden movement, moving awkwardly, or keeping the neck in a single position for several hours, such as sleeping overnight.
- Neck strain or sprain. A sprain can occur when the ligaments in the neck are torn or damaged. On the other hand, a strain is described as a torn tendon or muscle. Both can happen as a result of an injury due to physical activity and accidents.
- Fractured cervical spine. A fractured cervical spine, also known as a broken neck, refers to a severe condition requiring immediate professional attention.
- Herniated disc. This refers to when a spinal disc becomes torn and the soft interior bulges or leaks out of the disc. This is also commonly caused by accidents, falls, and other injuries.
- Pinched nerve. Pain can also be experienced when the bones, tendons, and tissues push against the surrounding nerves. This typically happens due to muscle strain or sprain.
Some activities may trigger neck problems or injuries. Some of these are the following:
- Doing some exercises or work that use the arms and upper body
- Holding the head in an odd position or leaning forward while watching TV, reading, or working on your computer.
- Spending long hours resting your forehead on your arm or upright fist
- Sleeping on a pillow that is too low or too high
- Sleeping on your stomach with the neck bent or twisted
Some health conditions may also cause neck problems, such as arthritis, flu, meningitis, and torticollis.
Urgent medical attention is required for neck pain when the injury causes damage to the spinal cord. The symptoms may include numbness, difficulty controlling the muscles, loss of feeling and movement.
According to Spine-Health.com, various rare conditions can also be associated with neck problems. Included in these health conditions are:
- Lyme disease is usually transmitted by a tick bite. Its symptoms may show a large rash or may even be unnoticed. When not given proper attention, neck pain, or a stiff neck may develop.
- Fibromyalgia is a health condition with long-lasting Pain and fatigue in various body parts, mainly the neck and the shoulders.
- Crowned dens syndrome usually occurs when crystal deposits accumulate on the ligament around the dens or the bone where the head swivels. It can lead to severe pain around the neck and skull, reducing head mobility.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome develops when the space between the collarbone and the first rib narrows, making it difficult for the nerves and blood vessels to pass through.
These are little known conditions that can cause neck pain. Thus, a better understanding of these can be a big help.
The symptoms of neck injuries and pain may vary from mild to severe. These symptoms may include:
- Difficulty and pain when turning the neck
- Stiffness in the neck
- Weakness of the fingers, hands, legs, and arms
- Muscle spasms in the shoulders and neck
- Excruciating Pain in the neck area
When the following symptoms accompany your neck pain, you should seek a physician's help:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chills and fever
- Trouble with thinking or memory
- Pain that does not vanish after several days
- Difficulty with moving and walking
- Pain that is felt in the whole arm
- Tingling and numbness
Yes, You Can Prevent Neck Pain
Jill M. Henderzahs-Mason P.T. mentioned some tips on how to apply proper ergonomics in the workplace to prevent neck pain. Those tips include the following:
- Position your monitor properly for you to avoid strain. You can adjust your monitor or chair so your eyes are level on the top of your screen. You can also increase the font size when working on your computer. You can also use monitor mounts to adjust your desktop monitor and laptop monitor to their proper position.
- Use an ergonomic chair with armrests so you can have your neck and shoulders relaxed. Your chair should also allow your back to maintain the normal curves of your spine.
- Keep within close range the items that you frequently use. Some of these items are the mouse, headset, document holders, folders, and other accessories.
- Position your mouse and keyboard properly to ensure that you can easily reach them. Keep your forearms parallel to the floor or point them slightly downward.
The bottom line: make sure to promote proper posture at work to prevent the dangers of getting neck pain and injuries.