Are you one of the millions of people whose work station has transitioned from the office to your couch or to your dining room table due to COVID-19 precautions and work-at-home orders? If so, one must consider environmental factors and work station ergonomics and how they affect one’s posture. If you are suddenly experiencing tension headaches and/or neck pain, we at Rehab United recommend that you 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 < 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, knees are bent at nearly 90-degree angle. Feet should be flat on the ground or resting on a footrest.
After improving your workstation 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. Inhibit Overactive Muscles via Stretches:
2. Activate and Strengthen Under-Active Muscles:
Prone T’s & Y’s
3. Improve Postural Awareness via Postural Re-Setting:
Set a timer for every 30-60 minutes to stretch and/or re-set your posture to make this a habit.
If you continue to experience worsening headaches or neck pain after improving your ergonomics and trying this 3-step strategy, give us a call and speak with a therapist 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.