Is sitting at a computer the root cause of your neck and shoulder pain?

Evidence shows that one of the risk factors for neck and shoulder pain is sitting at a computer or desk for more than 6 hours a day. Many people think that this is due to a “bad posture” but it is more so probably due to the fact that you are moving less and sustaining the same position, while performing the same work involving repetitive tasks for longer than your body can tolerate comfortably.

Similar to non-specific back pain, chronic neck and shoulder pain is not usually due to any one specific factor (unless it is the result of an obvious injury or pathology). There is not a lot of evidence to show a direct causal relationship between posture and neck or shoulder pain. Posture can play a role, for some people of course, but there is no direct link nor is there any one posture for sitting that has shown to be the optimal one. What you can do is ensure you are not staying in the same position for any great length of time by taking breaks when able and shifting your position often.

Contrary to popular belief, evidence shows that sitting slouched can even have some beneficial effects to your neck, as your intervertebral discs can be more hydrated while in this position. Of course, that is not to say you should sit like this all day; the same rules apply, and you should keep switching up your position. It just highlights the fact that posture and pain is complex and not as simple as you just need to sit, lift and carry yourself in perfect neutral spinal alignment. At Reach we actually think that this is quite comforting, as it is reassuring to know that you can move and sit in many different ways without worrying that you will injure yourself. You and your body are free to move in basically any way you want, as long as it’s introduced gradually and progressively. This is what’s sometimes referred to as ‘movement optimism’.

To prevent neck and shoulder pain, keep physically active and exercise your neck. This should be your top priority as opposed to trying to find the perfect posture or set up your workstation in an ergonomically perfect position.

Andreas Hessner
andreas@reachactive.co

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