The Grapevine

Tips To Avoid Neck Strain While Using The Computer

While working on the computer, we slip into autopilot so often that we fail to realize when we ended up in that familiar position — leaning forward without support, head bent down, and eyes close to the monitor. 

In a new study published in the journal Biofeedback, experts from the San Francisco State University revealed how this posture takes quite a toll. Scrunching your neck, they found, could actually limit the extent to which one could turn their head.

The researchers also noted other possible consequences such as muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, and long-term risk of injury to the vertebrae i.e. the bones that form your spinal column.

"When your posture is tall and erect, the muscles of your back can easily support the weight of your head and neck — as much as 12 pounds," said Erik Peper, a professor of holistic health.

"But when your head juts forward at a 45-degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds. It is not surprising people get stiff necks coupled with shoulder and back pain."

If you are often complaining about an achy neck, it is definitely a sign to examine your posture. While this obviously applies to people who spend most of the day using a computer as a part of their job, this problem can occur when staring at any kind of device in the wrong way.  

For instance, a 2018 study looked into the "iPad neck" and what caused it. Turns out, that stiff neck has less to do with the duration of use and more to do with poor posture. Even gender was a factor as women were at higher risk of experiencing pain — this was due to lower muscle strength and the tendency to assume more extreme postures.

To keep muscle tension at bay, make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched. Your head should be able to face straight rather than being tilted down — this means you will have to adjust the platform the computer is placed on or adjust the height of your chair. And finally, your wrists and forearms should be parallel to the floor.

To pick up the habit easily, Peper recommends mimicking the wrong, scrunchy posture so that your mind starts to associate it with discomfort. "You can exaggerate the position and experience the symptoms. Then when you find yourself doing it, you can become aware and stop," he explained.

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