Desk Ergonomics: 3 Stretches to Prevent Neck & Back Pain at Your Desk Job
Updated: Aug 14
Do you sit in front of a computer all day, either at home or in the office? If so, one must consider environmental factors and desk ergonomics and how they affect one’s posture. If you are suddenly experiencing tension headaches, neck pain, or back pain, assess your sitting posture when working on your laptop or desk computer.
Here are some general guidelines:
Keyboard & Mouse Height: In alignment with your elbows, elbows are bent at < 90-degree angle.
Computer Height: The top of your monitor should be in alignment with your eyes.
Chair Height: Your hips and knees are nearly leveled, and your knees are bent at a nearly 90-degree angle. The feet should be flat on the ground or resting on a footrest.
Stretches to Prevent Neck & Back Pain
After improving your desk ergonomics, skilled physical therapy is aimed at restoring your muscle imbalances, as the forward head position we assume when using electronics (cell phones, laptops, desk computers, etc.) will ultimately lead to a combination of overactive muscles and underactive muscles. This postural imbalance is known as Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) and can lead to stiffness of the neck, tension headaches, and even shoulder pain and shoulder impingement.
According to a recent study in 2016 (by Won-Sik Bae et. al) a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises has proven to be an effective treatment for Upper Crossed Syndrome. We can utilize a simple 3-step strategy:
1. Trapezius Stretches
2. Prone T's & Y's
Improve postural awareness via postural re-setting by setting a timer for every 30-60 minutes to stretch and/or re-set your posture to make this a habit.
When to Consider Physical Therapy
If you continue to experience worsening headaches, neck pain, or back pain after improving your ergonomics and trying this 3-step strategy, schedule an evaluation to determine if physical therapy is required to discover the root cause of your pain.
Shannon Garcia, PT, DPT received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2017 from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. She has taken numerous continuing education courses to expand her knowledge and manual techniques for the treatment of numerous disorders involving the musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and vestibular pathologies. She is most interested in the continuation of her professional education with an emphasis on the treatment of various vestibular disorders.