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How Laptop Users Can Avoid Neck Pain

by Sarah Beck, Physiotherapist

 

In a live Facebook video, Karen Finnin, founder of Online.Physio and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, broke down a recent review of neck pain in office workers by Chen and colleagues (2018).

Karen spoke about the interventions that have been shown to work for neck pain rehabilitation in computer users, and noted the areas where more research is required.

It is definitely worth watching the full video as she emphasises the key take home messages to put the research into practice.

Within this blog I'll touch on some of the review findings and give you 3 take home exercises which will help you to avoid neck pain if you work on a computer alot.

The Research

After looking through many clinical trials, Chen and colleagues (2018) concluded that the evidence shows that strengthening exercises specifically for the neck have a significant impact on decreasing neck pain in office workers.

Good general fitness levels in office workers was also shown to decrease the development of neck pain.

The evidence for ergonomic work set up in preventing neck pain was not shown to be significant. However, Karen suggests in the video that there is a gap in the research with regard to ergonomic work environments, and better quality research is required.

So, at Online.Physio we still advocate that a great ergonomic desk set up is important to manage and prevent common computer related aches and pains, such as neck and back pain.

Karen's take home messages from the review are vital to managing and avoiding your neck pain.

Good general strength and fitness mean that muscle tissues are healthier, and can therefore sustain sitting at your laptop for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Karen suggests that simple upper body strength and endurance exercises, such as forward and lateral raises, and shoulder shrugs, will help when working from a laptop.

Apart from strengthening exercises, it is also important to take regular breaks, and to alternate between sitting and standing.

Remote ergonomic assessment

If you get achy when you work on a computer alot, it may time to review your desk set up.

A remote ergonomic assessment can help.

Exercises To Help Avoid Neck Pain

The 3 evidence based home exercises that will manage your neck pain include deep neck flexor strengthening, forward and lateral raises, and lateral flexion stretches.

 

Deep Neck Flexor Strengthening

Image Credit: www.physitrack.com

Starting position: Lying

This exercise can be performed in sitting or standing as well. However, I recommend starting in lying and progressing to sitting.

 

  1. Perform a very small nod of your head. Do not lift your head, but imagine your skull is the base of a rocking horse and you are rocking your skull slowly back and forth. Keep the range of movement small as if you are nodding 'yes'.

 

Reps: 10-15

 

Forward and Lateral Raises

Starting position: Standing

This exercise can be performed with or without a weight.

Image Credit: www.physitrack.com

  1. Firstly, check you are standing in a good posture. For the forward raise, keep your arms straight and lift out in front to shoulder height. Then lower back to your side.

 

Image Credit: www.physitrack.com

  1. For the lateral raise, keep your arms straight and lift out to the sides to shoulder height. Then lower back to your side.
  2. Through both these movements maintain your neck in a neutral position.

 

Reps: 10-20 each direction

Lateral Flexion Stretches

Image Credit: www.physitrack.com

Starting position: Standing or sitting

 

  1. Sit or stand with your arms by your side. Tilt your head in the direction of your ear moving towards your shoulder.
  2. Hold for 10 seconds, then return to neutral.

 

Reps: 5 times each side

 

Continue to do these exercises daily along with general exercise and you will see results. If you don’t you should consult a physiotherapist.

 

Reference:

Chen, X., Coombes, B. K., Sjøgaard, G., Jun, D., O’Leary, S., & Johnston, V. (2018). Workplace-Based Interventions for Neck Pain in Office Workers: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Physical Therapy, 98 (1), 40-62.

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