Preventing neck and back pain

After a trip to the hairdresser, one too many flicks of my new fringe left me with an intense neck spasm and since then, a niggle that’s easily aggravated by extended time in front of my computer. As my dodgy neck niggle serves as a constant reminder about my posture and how to sit at my computer in particular, to prevent neck and back pain, I thought it might be useful to share what works for me.

Picture of Spine

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Slouched in a chair and hunched over the computer is the standard position most of us spend our days in. It’s not just sitting at a desk that encourages this poor posture though. If the muscles associated with good posture are weak, driving, walking and standing inevitably lead to a hunched over position with your head poking forward.

Poor posture results in so many problems, a stiff and sore neck, lower back pain, tight shoulders and headaches to name a few. Becoming aware of your posture and making small changes throughout the day can make a big difference in your day to day postural habits. Focusing on the way you sit at your desk is a good place to start.

Preventing neck and back pain can be simple. Below are 4 easy tips to use at your desk to help you improve your posture and relieve pain and tension caused by poor posture.

1. Elevate your laptop

Correct Posture with raised A common cause of neck pain is having your head poking forward or looking down for extended periods of time.

Raise your laptop or computer screen by placing a stack of magazines or books underneath it. If you’re raising your laptop, you’ll need to invest in a cordless keyboard and mouse, this will be well worth it though!

The ideal height is at eye level, helping to prevent you from looking down and poking your head forward. This is a small change but it will have a significant impact on your posture!

2. Learn how to touch type

I will go into this in a separate blog post as it’s one I’m still working on and I’d love to share my experience with you. The bottom line is that if you’re raising your screen but still need to look down at your keyboard while typing, you’re defeating the purpose.

Learning to type without looking at your keyboard, known as touch typing, is a new skill you might need to spend some time perfecting but again, this will make a huge impact on your posture and spine health as well as significantly speed up your typing as an added bonus. Try www.typingtest.com, it’s a great resource with free lessons!

3. Stack your spine

Bad Posture

Sitting with shoulders rounded and head poking forward will lead to back and neck problems

Sitting up straight takes work. If you’re used to slouching, your postural muscles will generally be weak and you’ll need to work even harder to maintain correct posture until it becomes a habit. Once this becomes a habit though, generally speaking your back and neck pain will improve significantly.

Think of lengthening the back of your neck and tucking your chin in ever so slightly. Your shoulders should be directly over your hips, with your spine in a neutral position supported by a chair with good lumbar support. You should be sitting straight up on your sit bones not on your sacrum, which happens when you tuck your pelvis. Imagine your vertebrae are building blocks stacked one on top of the other.

4. Find a moment to move

Whether it’s a quick neck stretch or a few shoulder rolls, taking a few moments to move your body rather than sitting still in the same position is another great way to help alleviate muscle stiffness and pain.

Below are 5 easy stretches that you can do right at your desk that will help to ease tension and help relieve pain caused by incorrect posture while sitting.

Neck stretches

Shoulder shrugs

Side stretches

Spinal rotation

Glute Stretch

Along with all these simple steps, a ‘maintenance’ session at the physio once in a while is also a great way to keep unnecessary tension and pain at bay. I hope you find these tips as helpful as I have!

Happy stretching!

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About Di

Dianne Piketh trained as a dancer before becoming a Pilates instructor. In 2009, she launched Studio 2 Pilates, a boutique Pilates studio in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town.

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