3 Ways to Prevent Neck Pain at Work

neckpainRecently I’ve heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking”. This is an interesting concept and regardless of how accurate the statement is, there is an aspect of truth in it. Our bodies were not designed to be stationary – we were made to move. Unfortunately, a large percentage of our jobs require either extended periods of sitting or being static throughout the day, which is the perfect environment to develop neck aches and pains.

This post discusses three simple techniques to prevent postural neck pain and may also be helpful for those who have pre-existing neck pain. By using these easy techniques, you will be more focused, more productive and able to think about something other than the pain in your neck. Part 2 of this series will discuss specific stretches and exercises to do while sitting at your desk that complement the three techniques discussed here.

1. Work Station Setup

We tend to take our time when picking out things like a new mattress or a new car, looking at features and comfort. Not only are these items investments, but we’re planning on spending a lot of time in them (hopefully more time sleeping than driving!). So why don’t we take more time investing in our desk set up at work?

Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • With your arms resting at your sides, your elbows should be slightly higher than your desk/keyboard to prevent the shoulders from “shrugging” up.
  • Your screen distance and font size should be appropriate for you so that you do not push your head forward towards the screen or squint to see the text.
  • Your mouse should be close to your keyboard and your body to prevent neck tension from reaching forward. 

2. Head & Neck Posture

As screen time becomes increasingly difficult to avoid, so does a forward-head position. This turtle-like neck posture, especially if sustained, increases tension on muscles, ligaments, joints and discs – all sensitive structures that can become painful if irritated.

A healthy head and neck position starts from the low back up – sit up tall with a small arch in the low back, shoulders in line with the body (not slumped forward) and head centered over the shoulders, eyes level. Your goal: a straight line connecting your trunk/shoulders and your ears.

3. 60/60 Rule

Whether it be the 20/20, 30/30 or 60/60 rule, the concept is simple – for every minute of immobility, perform one second of movement based activity. Pick the rule that fits with your work-style, then follow it. After 60 minutes of work, do 60 seconds of something else – walk down the hall to the printer, use the restroom, or do 1 minute of gentle neck stretching or strengthening (hint: chin tucks or shoulderblade squeezes!).


*Signs that your neck pain is more serious than postural strain include: pain that is constant or pulsating, neck pain that is accompanied by hand weakness, dizziness, double vision, difficulty speaking, passing out, nausea or ringing in the ears, or difficulty walking. Please see your physician as soon as possible for this type of neck pain.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned – part two will discuss easy exercises to complete your neck pain prevention strategy!