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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Avoiding pain while working at a desk

Cynthia Weiss, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I have been working at home for the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My work requires me to be on a computer much of the day, and over the past few months, I've noticed more frequent headaches, and pain in my lower back and sometimes my neck. Could my workspace be contributing to my pain? If so, how can I fix it?

ANSWER: The number of people working from home has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people working from home came an increased number of people reporting neck pain and back pain.

Sitting and working at a desk — perhaps a makeshift one — is one of the most common causes of this type of pain. Taking time to review and redesign your workspace can alleviate discomfort, whether you work at home or in an office.

First take notice of your computer or workstation. Often I find that people try to accommodate to the technology rather than the other way around. For instance, many people strain to see a computer monitor that is too far away, too low, too high, too small or too dim. This compromises good posture.

The average human head weighs almost 12 pounds — the equivalent of a bowling ball. When your neck is bent to 45 degrees, your head exerts nearly 50 pounds of force on your neck. In addition to straining joints and muscles in your neck and shoulders, the pressure affects your breathing and mood.

To alleviate this stress, redesign your workspace to encourage well-aligned posture. You can improve the ergonomics — the efficiency and comfort level — of a typical workstation in many ways.

 

Start by answering these questions.

Q. Is your monitor positioned so you can see it well without straining?

Consider these tips:

•Raise or lower the monitor or your chair so your eyes are level with the top of the screen. If you wear bifocals, you may need to lower the monitor another 1 to 2 inches.

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