Computer Neck Syndrome

By Chad Evans, MPT

Computer Neck Syndrome Overview

As a physical therapist for JOI Rehab, I often have patients come to me with complaints of neck or shoulder pain. Many times, they can not describe a specific injury that caused this pain. After some investigating we find that their pain comes about after spending time on the computer. A nickname we have given this condition is Computer Neck Syndrome.

Neck pain occurs when looking at a computer all day.

Image of a person typing.

Neck Pain

With the advancement of technology more people are developing neck issues related to sitting posture. Whether we are at work, school, or home, many of us are spending longer periods of time sitting in front of a computer. Most of us pay little attention to our body mechanics or posture while we are doing this. The only time we think about it is when we start to have pain. Usually the pain will go away if we move or change positions. Over time this repeated process can start having lasting effects. What used to only hurt after being in front of the computer for a long period of time now starts to bother you after a short time, or even worse, when you haven’t even been using the computer! Most of us can’t quit our jobs so we need to figure out how to fix this problem.

For most people this horrible condition gets better, once the root cause is identified and changes are made to either their body mechanics or work station. Usually if someone sits long enough in front of a computer with poor body mechanics, the body will respond by sending your brain a message that something hurts. Unfortunately at this point, you have already caused some irritation or possibly damage to the involved soft tissue. Typically this is the muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs in the neck, and/or shoulder area.

Woman stretching neck at desk

taking a break and a moment to stretch with head tilted to the side

The longer we sit with poor posture, the more it stretches and weakens this soft tissue. Over time these structures get weaker and weaker. In the early stages, pain is noticed only if you have sat for a long time in this position and is easily relieved if you get up and move around. This takes the strain off of the tissue that you have been stretching and gives it a break. Eventually if the poor posture continues, it takes less time before you begin to hurt and longer to get relief when moving around or getting up from your computer. Finally this can lead to pain without ever sitting at your computer. Don’t be this guy! Do something about it before it gets to that point.

Neck bones

Cervical Vertebral Bones

Physical Therapy

Most of the problems associated with Computer Neck Syndrome can be alleviated with a little knowledge and a desire to get better. If you think you may have this condition, talk to one of the professionals at JOI. There are a variety of exercises that can help improve sitting posture and decrease or eliminate your pain.  Physical Therapy can help significantly if you have pain associated with this condition. Our clinicians who can evaluate your posture and give you helpful tips to improve your ergonomics and posture while at work.

A few tips to help while you are at your computer:

  1. Take a break every 30 minutes.
  2. Stretch your neck and shoulders during your break.
    1. Pec Stretch.
      Pec stretch

      Pect Stretch or doorway stretch

      1. Chin Tuck.
      2. Scalene and Trap Stretch.
  3. Make sure your computer screen is at the correct height.
Ergonomics at your Desk

Correct Posture for work at computer instructions set.

4.Concentrate on good posture while you are sitting at the computer.

5. If you neck pain persists, get an appointment with a back and neck orthopedic doctor.

Computers may not only affect your neck, but also your low back. Read more about low back pain here low back pain and about common neck injuries. 

JOI and JOI Rehab

JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.

You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.

To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

By: Chad Evans, MPT

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