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The Relationship Between Poor Office Ergonomics and Neck Pain

09 August 2023

One of the most common complaints in office workers who spend several hours every day sitting in front of the computer is neck pain. Neck pain is usually a result of poor sitting posture at work, which is because of poor workplace ergonomics. But this isn't something many people understand.

Most people shrug off their neck pain causally. They take a painkiller if it is too much for them to handle and go about the rest of their day as if nothing's wrong. Taking a painkiller reduces the pain, but it doesn't address the root cause, and you'll experience neck pain again the next day! You can't keep taking medicines every day, can you?

If you constantly experience neck pain and don't know what's causing it, look around and see how ergonomics-friendly your workplace is. Poor workplace ergonomics is the leading cause of neck pain in office-going employees.

This blog post talks about how poor workplace ergonomics and neck pain are connected and what you can do to improve the ergonomics of your workplace and minimize neck pain.

Understanding the Relationship Between Poor Office Ergonomics and Neck Pain

One of the primary features of a workplace with poor ergonomics is that the workers sit for long hours in incorrect postures due to the unavailability of ergonomic furniture and office equipment. Your neck gets strained when you're seated in a bad posture for several hours at a stretch every day.

Let's look at it this way. If you're using a computer right now, evaluate your posture. Are you sitting in a poking chin posture, with your head bent forward towards the computer screen and your chin poking outwards? If yes, that's precisely what a bad posture is!

Sitting with your neck sticking forward compromises the position of the cervical spine (the vertebra in the neck region). When the cervical spine's natural (and safe) position is compromised, it causes the back of the cervical vertebrae to get compressed. This is the part of the spine where the nerve roots exit the spinal canal and travel to the arms. When you sit in the poking chin posture, the spinal nerves are at risk of getting compressed. Compression of nerves can result in excruciating pain and immense discomfort.

Not only does sitting in a poking chin posture compress the cervical nerves, but it also puts excessive stress on the muscles in the shoulder region. These muscles are attached to the side of the cervical vertebrae, and the result is a pain in the neck and shoulder region.

Since now you know the relationship between poor workplace ergonomics and neck pain, you can work more consciously towards correcting your posture and improving the ergonomics of your workplace.

Improving Workplace Ergonomics to Reduce Neck Pain

As you know by now, the primary reason for neck pain in office workers is incorrect posture at work. Bad posture is often promoted in poor ergonomic work conditions. These are all closely linked to each other, and improving one thing will improve the other!

To reduce the incidence of neck pain at work, you need to improve the ergonomics of your workstation. An ergonomic workstation will promote a correct posture which in turn will reduce the chances of you experiencing neck pain.

Below are some ways in which you can improve the ergonomics of your workstation:

Invest in an Ergonomic Chair

Investing in an ergonomic chair is the first and most promising way of making your workstation ergonomics-friendly. An ergonomic chair isn't like the regular office chair that you currently use. The chair you sit on at work influences your posture significantly. If the chair doesn't provide your spine adequate support, it'll affect the curvature of the spine, and with that, pressure distribution will get affected too. The result will be increased pressure on the vertebrae, muscle fatigue, and even asymmetry, all of which will cause extreme discomfort and pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back.

An ergonomic chair like the Standard Office Chair (C5) features an extended, flexible backrest. The backrest is curved to match the spine's natural curvature so that your spine is adequately supported throughout the time you're working. With the back fully supported, the stress on the vertebrae will be reduced, which will eventually reduce the chances of neck and back pain resulting from prolonged sitting at work.

Not only does an ergonomic chair offer superior support to the back, but it also offers support to the arms with the armrests. If you work on a computer without any support to the elbows and arms, the load on your neck and shoulders increases, resulting in strain and muscle fatigue. However, thanks to the armrests in an ergonomic chair, the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles is greatly reduced.

Some ergonomic chairs also have a headrest that ensures that your head and neck are also supported. Without a headrest, your neck main not get the support it needs, and sitting in an upright posture for too long can result in the painful stiffening of the neck.

If neck pain is a regular complaint for you, we suggest you invest in an ergonomic chair with armrests and headrests to ensure your neck and pain are fully supported so that the risk of neck pain can be minimized.

Install an Adjustable Monitor Mount

Another cause of neck pain at work is the incorrect positioning of the computer screen. If your computer screen is placed too high or too low, you'll have to bend your head backward or forward to be able to see the screen. Sitting in this posture is bound to strain the neck and result in neck pain. Ideally, the computer screen should be placed at eye level so that you don't have to bend your neck too much.

You may also experience neck pain if your computer screen isn't placed at the right distance and right angle for you. If your computer screen is placed too far away, you'll have to sit in a poking chin posture, which you already know, is a leading cause of neck pain in computer users. If the computer screen isn't placed at the right angle, you'll have to tilt your head at awkward angles to see the screen properly, which will also result in neck pain.

This is where an adjustable monitor mount can help you. With an adjustable monitor mount, you can adjust the height, angle, and distance your computer screen is placed. You can adjust the monitor such that it's right in front of you at eye level and an arm's length distance from you.

Why is it Important to Improve Workplace Ergonomics?

If you continue to work in poor ergonomic conditions, you'll soon develop chronic neck pain. Neck pain isn't the only risk you're at. Poor workplace ergonomics can also result in neck and shoulder pain and put you at a massive risk of developing posture-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Let's look in detail at why improving workplace ergonomics isn't an option but a necessity!

Reduced Productivity and Efficiency

Can you give your best at work if you aren't feeling the best? Let's say you're experiencing severe neck pain, will you be able to focus on work? Absolutely not! Poor workplace ergonomics cause discomfort and pain and affect your productivity and efficiency at work. You're constantly distracted, and the result is poor quality work and missed deadlines.

Increased Absenteeism

If your neck pain goes really bad, you won't be able to go to work at all. If you're already experiencing neck pain and other consequences of working in a poor ergonomic environment (back pain, eye strain, etc.) and you continue to work in these conditions, there'll come the point when you get too unwell to work. This is when you'll have to take leaves from work. Not only will you fall behind your deadlines, but you'll also have to spend a lot of money on healthcare costs out of your pocket if your employer doesn't provide you with health benefits!

Poor Mood and Morale

Working in pain can never make anyone feel good. Imagine you're experiencing severe neck or back pain, and you still have to show up to work and sit in an uncomfortable chair for several hours, won't it affect your mood? You'll be irritable and frustrated. You won't feel like working at all. You'll just try to get things off your desk without really thinking about the quality you're delivering. Working in such conditions puts you in a foul mood and directly affects your mental well-being.

Closing Word

You certainly wouldn't want to fall prey to the consequences of poor workplace ergonomics. You may not realize the importance of having an ergonomic workstation now, but you'll know it when you fall too sick to work. Neck pain in computer users is an extremely common complaint, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously. Just because nearly everyone has it doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about. Neck pain is a sign that your working conditions aren't ideal and that you're at risk of developing more serious health conditions like musculoskeletal disorders.