Tag Archives: neck discomfort

Pain? Discomfort? Fatigue? Your Workspace Could be a Culprit.

In today’s day and age, most of us can’t avoid spending way too many hours in front of a computer monitor.  Unfortunately, the posture and repetitive movement that this encourages is one that causes excessive stress on body parts like the hands, wrists, elbow, shoulders, neck, and back. This contributes to discomfort, fatigue and even outright pain.

Fortunately, there is a way to limit this stress put on your body and potentially reduce or eliminate the discomfort and fatigue.  This is done through the implementation of proper ergonomics.  Ergonomics is a discipline that involves arranging the environment to fit the person in it. This can be done anywhere but for the sake of this post, we will hit you with a few easily implementable tips for the office setting.


Adjust the height of the chair so feet rest flat on the floor, the thighs are parallel to the floor, and the knees are about the same level as the hips.

Adjust height of armrests so the arms can rest at your sides during typing, allowing for relaxation and a natural “drop” of the shoulders.  Shoulders should not be elevated in anyway by the armrests.


The top of the screen should be at or just below eye level when you are seated in an upright position to avoid encouragement of forward translation of the head and shoulders.  The monitor should also be directly in front of you to avoid excessive twisting of the neck.


The angle between your elbows and forearms should be as close to 90 degrees as possible, with forearms parallel to the floor and keyboard directly in front of you.

Try to avoid resting your wrists or hands on the edge of the keyboard while typing or on the mouse when you are not using it.  While using the mouse, make sure your wrist is in a neutral position.

The mouse, keyboard, and every other thing on your desk that you frequently use should be positioned close to you to avoid excessive reaching.


You may be unaware of it, but little changes can help you avoid unwanted eye strain throughout the day.  This eye strain can lead to headaches and increased forward head posture.

Monitor should be approximately 18-30 inches from the eyes (depending on the size of the monitor).

Reduce Glare by:

Positioning the monitor at a right angle from the window.

I know you love that window in your office, but closing the blinds also reduces the glare.

The worktop surface should have a matte finish (think desk blotter if you have a shiny desk).


It is imperative that you break up the long periods of sitting.  Sitting is actually one of the worst positions for your back and can also lead to blood pooling in legs and feet.  Taking a quick break from sitting every 20 to 40 minutes is key.

Practice “dynamic sitting.”  Make sure there is enough room underneath the desk to move your legs.  If you do find yourself seated for extended periods of time, utilize a lumbar support or a rolled towel to support the natural curve of your lower back.

Getting up and walking to the bathroom or to get some water (the two go hand in hand and you should be drinking more water anyway) are an easy way to keep it moving.  If you need to stay at your station, simply stand up and perform a stretch like the Bruegger’s Stretch demonstrated here:


Please do not underestimate the power of some of these simple changes.  Anytime I work with a patient, we always address the work station set-up through pictures provided by the patient or checking it out in person.  If you’re curious about your personal space or feel like those around you would benefit from a work space makeover, please contact me as we are now accepting patients and providing free ergonomic evaluations for all local businesses.  This is a standard part of your individual treatment plan when you become a patient, but a free office wide evaluation can be done as well.

As with all things, proper ergonomics is just one piece of the puzzle.  Couple this with a thorough chiropractic evaluation addressing overall posture, balance and any other issues you may have going on and you are making a strong proactive statement about regaining control of your health and ultimately your life.  Again, feel free to contact me if you’re interested in getting started.

Remember, a proper, less strenuous work station promotes better posture and less discomfort.  Better posture promotes better breathing (more oxygen) and less needless strain on numerous muscles, each leading to less fatigue and pain, and clearer, more creative thinking.  This means your work gets done faster and at a higher level.  Sounds like a bonus for employee and employer alike.

Breathe Right

I’d like to hit you with a tip this week that is often overlooked as a culprit behind multiple issues when it comes to your health and wellbeing.  The seemingly subconscious act of proper breathing.  On the surface this appears like such a simple act that we all take for granted.  But as we all know, we must breathe to live.  Period.


Let’s first breakdown what actually transpires when we breathe.  When you inhale you are delivering oxygen to an interface between your lungs and blood vessels.  Here, freshly inhaled oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, which you then expel during exhalation.  Your beating heart provides the force to deliver the carbon dioxide to this interface bounded to hemoglobin molecules in your blood.

When the exchange is made, oxygen is then delivered to all of your tissues bound to that same hemoglobin molecule. Oxygen is a vital fuel for your cells to function properly.  One of the waste products of this metabolic process is carbon dioxide, which is then taken by the blood back to the lungs for the cycle to continually repeat itself.

Sounds simple enough.  But what if I told you that you’re probably not breathing correctly and this could be contributing to a myriad of issues including that discomfort in your neck.


Most people do not realize this, but breathing is actually a brain directed function carried out by muscles, the chief one being the diaphragm.  This is a muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest cavity.  Breathing in is actually a function of this muscle descending, enlarging your chest cavity and creating a negative pressure that sucks oxygen rich air into your lungs.  Once this has transpired, the diaphragm then ascends, reversing that negative pressure and pushing the now carbon dioxide laden air out of your lungs.

If you observe someone breathing you will more than likely notice that the shoulders and chest rise and fall.  This is actually the incorrect way of breathing and signifies the use of what are called accessory muscles of respiration.   These muscles are connected throughout your cervical spine (neck), ribs, clavicle (collar bone) and sternum.

By breathing incorrectly you are putting these muscles to work all day, every day.  Couple that with the fact that these muscles are already being overworked by that anterior posture from being hunched over at our computers, and these muscles become quite fatigued.  When this occurs you become more susceptible to injury due to the fatigued muscles (that would normally stabilize your neck during strenuous movements) failing.

There also begins to be an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles.  Most of us have felt this before when riding a bike and our thighs start to burn.  This is the same concept, expect in these over contracted neck muscles that tend to lead to tender and uncomfortable trigger points.


So what can you do?  You can start by practicing breathing correctly.  Correct breathing is actually from your belly, not your chest.  When you inhale, your belly (or that six pack) should expand outward.  When you breathe out your abdomen should then sink back in.  This seems counterintuitive, but the motion should be mostly all in the abdomen, and minimally in the shoulders and chest.

Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Note the motions that take place while breathing in and out.  If you notice that it is off, make a conscious effort to correct it.  This exercise can be done at any time during the day, even when at your desk or sitting at a light in the car.  Doing this should begin to offer some relief to those aforementioned accessory muscles.  Couple this with some postural exercises and you should be able to decrease that neck discomfort tenfold.

Proper posture and breathing mechanics also allows a deeper breath and thus more oxygen.  As stated above, oxygen is vital for almost all functions in the body.  Any deficit in its concentration or delivery can lead to all sorts of problems including headaches and lack of concentration.  It, along with glucose and activation are the absolute necessities required for survival and proper function of your nervous system.  That’s your brain, spinal cord, and nerves wired throughout your body we are talking about here.  Make sure you’re giving it the fuel it needs to perform as intended.

Another interesting effect that you can take advantage of by utilizing this belly breathing technique comes by way of parasympathetic nervous system stimulation.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, there are two opposite nervous systems that should balance each other out in order to maintain optimal function.  The sympathetic system which is your fight or flight response, and your parasympathetic which is basically for rest and digest.

Being that the parasympathetic system is in charge of digestion, it has a vast number of connections to the organs involved in the digestive process, particularly the intestines located in your abdomen.  When you breathe with your belly you are causing stimulation to the abdomen, which we just said is heavily parasympatheticaly innervated.  This connection leads to subsequent stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you de-stress and relax.

This is the reason a proper breathing technique is one of the main components of successful meditation.  Increased delivery of oxygen to your brain allowing you to elevate your mind.  Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system facilitating calmness.

If you practice this method of breathing you have the potential to not only begin to mechanically relieve some of that nagging neck pain, but it will also help you to remain calm and relaxed.   Who would’ve thought such a seemingly simple task could carry such potentially positive ramifications?