Sandra recently contacted us to ask some questions about Neck Pain due to working with a lowered head while reading, marking and typing, for prolonged periods. Here are my suggestions for dealing with existing neck pain, as well as avoiding this type of neck pain altogether.
My name is Sandra,
I am returning to work this September (I am a teacher) from maternity leave, and I am looking at possibilities for desk options. I found out in the winter that I have a large bone spur in my neck. It causes a lot of discomfort. I am concerned about marking as I can't keep my neck down for a long period of time. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks in advance,
Thanks for reaching out to me. I hope the following thoughts may help give you some ideas.
As you have identified, your discomfort most likely stems from bending your head forward while you are looking down for extended periods while reading, marking papers, etc.
The image below from The Atlantic Magazine illustrates the impact of lowering your head and the stress it puts on your neck and shoulders. Even though the subject matter is about texting, the issue is the same. I'm sure your bone spur greatly accentuates the discomfort.
Sixty pounds is roughly the weight of four adult-sized bowling balls. Or six plastic grocery bags worth of food. Or an 8-year-old.1
1. I'm sure you know this already. The question is how do you overcome the problem of needing to lower your head.
A way to help alleviate this may be to get whatever you are marking/reading up to a position that is about 10 degrees to 20 degrees below horizontal with your eyes. That way, your head can remain straight up while your eyes are looking down slightly. This is deemed to be the most comfortable posture for both your head and your eyes.
2. Do you mark online on the computer or is it hand written hard-copy?
If hard-copy, it would be great if you could scan the material onto a computer and mark it there. Assuming you can do your marking on a computer, do you use a desktop or laptop? Regardless, it's important that you get the monitor to the correct height.
Desktops are easy.
They have a separate monitor that can be adjusted to a comfortable height (top of the monitor about horizontal with your eyes and major text about 10 degrees to 20 degrees below horizontal). Sometimes an adjustable monitor arm is beneficial.
Laptops are not immune.
accomplished with a wireless keyboard and an adjustable laptop stand as shown here.
Last thing to consider is the height of your desk or work surface.
If your desk is too high for keying, you will most likely be experiencing neck, shoulder and lower back discomfort because your tendency is to scrunch up your shoulders to compensate. The tops of most desks are about 29" off the floor, which is about perfect for someone who is about 6'-0" to 6'-1" tall. If you are less than 6' tall and you are working on your computer for extended periods, I would suggest that you consider getting a desk that better fits your height.
(One of the advantages of many height adjustable desks is their ability to be lowered to your individual correct height in addition to their ability to be raised to a standing height.)
Finally, it has been said " your best posture is your next posture". We were not designed to stay fixed in one place. A change in posture is important every 20-40 minutes or so. If you are sitting, stand. If you are standing, sit. All that being said, If you are restricted to dealing with written hard-copy material etc., you might want to consider a document holder that will help bring this material up to a more comfortable viewing level.
I hope this helps.
President & CEO
1 “What Texting Does to the Spine” The Atlantic Magazine Nov 2014 http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/what-texting-does-to-the-spine/382890/