Office workers generally don’t have to do much heavy lifting, or operate complicated machinery, or climb to perilous heights supported only by a rope and carabiner. Yet, even though a serious injury is not typically a major concern in an office setting, neck pain experienced while sitting at a desk can be every bit as disruptive as an ankle sprained on a construction job. In fact, neck pain related to a herniated disc or similar spinal condition could be far more serious and difficult to manage over the long term than an acute injury such as a sprain or muscle strain. There are, however, several ways an office worker can mitigate the symptoms related to a herniation of an intervertebral disc in the neck.
Be Mindful of Posture While Seated
Many office workers who type on a computer all day are familiar with the “computer crouch.” The natural function of gravity forces the spine into a curved position, especially in the cervical (neck) region, with the shoulders hunched and the head tilted forward at a dramatic angle. Clearly, this seated posture is not recommended, especially for people at risk for developing a herniated disc in the neck. After a while, a sharp neck pain or stiffness develops. If disc herniation already is present within the neck, sitting in a slouched position might also increase the likelihood that extruded nucleus material might make contact with an adjacent nerve root, causing localized neck pain, radiating pain through the upper back and arms, or tingling, numbness, and/or muscle weakness in the upper extremities.
A Few Tips to Prevent Neck Pain in the Office
To combat these symptoms, take the following precautions:
- Keep your computer monitor or monitors at eye level.
- Use a hands-free headset if your job requires frequent phone conversations.
- Rotate the head and neck frequently to keep the muscles loose, relaxed, and elongated.
- Take frequent breaks to walk, stretch, and just plain relax to stave off stress.
Remember, also, that there is a difference between the short-term effects of a muscle strain and the potentially debilitating symptoms related to a herniated disc in the neck. If pain and other symptoms become chronic (lasting longer than three months), contact your doctor to receive a thorough diagnosis.