Working from home has become the norm for a lot of us and because it’s not always possible to have a comfortable set-up like you would at work, things like neck and shoulder discomfort can start to cause problems.
While working from home, there are three main things that contribute to neck pain and make it worse.
Our posture while working
It’s quite likely that your workplace set up won’t be ideal – and will depend on what furniture you have available. More often than not, home furniture is designed for comfort and style, rather than posture support.
A few simple tweaks will help you make the most of your situation though. Try elevating your laptop or computer screen. You can buy a specialist stand but otherwise, a few books or a box will do. This way, your screen will be at eye level, allowing your neck to be in a more natural position and avoiding strain.
Sitting in the same position for too long
When we’re at work, it’s important to take regular breaks and move around – and there tend to be opportunities to do so, like going to meetings, out for lunch or to speak to colleagues. At home, we don’t have the same opportunities, so it’s much easier to spend more time sitting down.
Getting up and moving regularly is the key to preventing the build-up of neck tension. Aim to move every hour – it could be as simple as standing up and moving your head from side to side, going to the kitchen for a drink or just taking a walk around the room.
If you can, use the extra time you’re not using to get to work to maximise the benefits of exercise. Whether it’s a spot of yoga, a walk, jog or run or bodyweight or HIIT workouts, they can all be done at or close to home and are a great way to strengthen your body and have a positive impact on the mobility and flexibility of your neck.
Work-induced stress and anxiety
It’s fair to say that juggling work commitments while at home, as well as home-schooling for some may mean higher levels of stress. Feeling stressed is a major cause of tension in the body, particularly in the neck and shoulder area.
This is where self-care is key. Try to include stress-relieving activities into your everyday routine where possible. For some people, it’s exercise or getting out for some fresh air, while for others, it’s reading or just a quiet cup of tea.
While you’re not in the office and able to speak face to face with your colleagues, it’s even more important to try and maintain communication with the technology available to us. Perhaps have a video call instead of sending an email – and if it’s something you’d usually do, schedule in some social time where you can catch up with each other. This should help you feel more connected and more in control.
By paying attention to these areas, you should start to feel less stressed, which in turn will help ease the tension that causes a sore or tight neck and shoulders. For even more relief, here are a couple of simple stretches.
Neck side flexion
Standing relaxed with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your sides, let your head drop towards your left shoulder. To progress the stretch a little more, place your left hand over your head (just above your right ear) and gently guide your head further to the side. You should feel a light pull on the right side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
Lat wall stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall about an arms-length away. Stretch your arms out in front of you and place both hands on the wall at shoulder-level. Slowly push your head in between your shoulders, toward the ground. You should feel this in your upper back. To increase the stretch, step one foot back as you push down.
Chest wall stretch
Stand adjacent to a wall with your right shoulder close to, but not touching the wall. Turn your body (but not your feet) to the right and stretch your right arm out, placing your palm on the wall. Lightly press your palm on the wall and twist your body in the opposite direction. You should feel this in your chest. Repeat the same on the other side.
Grab a resistance band and hold one side in both hands, so the other side drops toward the floor. With your feet hip-width apart, stand on the side closest to the floor, so the band loops around the outside of both feet. Keep holding the other side with both hands. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips to (about a 45 degree angle) and slightly bend both knees. Slowly pull the band in toward your chest, with your elbows close to your sides. Pause at the top of the movement, which you should feel in your upper back. Repeat for eight reps.
Feeling the strain in your back from working from home? We have some simple stretches to help you protect your back.