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Computers – a right pain in the neck

Computers – a right pain in the neck

Bent over your laptop, concentrating on the screen can give you a stiff neck, shoulder and back pain.

The weight of your head at a 45 degree angle puts such a strain on your neck that it can also lead to fatigue, headaches, poor concentration and muscle tension.

Over time it can even injure your vertebrae and limit the ability to turn your head.

“When your posture is tall and erect, the muscles of your back can easily support the weight of your head and neck — as much as 12 pounds,” explains San Francisco State University Professor of Holistic Health Erik Peper. 

“But when your head juts forward at a 45 degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. 

“Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds. It is not surprising people get stiff necks and shoulder and back pain.”

Professor Peper and his colleagues monitored students with electromyography equipment when scrunched over their screens and found that trapezius muscle tension increased.

In another test students scrunched their necks for 30 seconds and afterwards 98pc reported some level of pain in their head, neck or eyes.

Professor Peper advises anyone suffering headache or neck and backaches from computer work to check their posture and “make sure your head is aligned on top of your neck, as if held by an invisible thread from the ceiling.

“You can do something about this poor posture very quickly,” says Peper. 

To increase body awareness, Peper advises deliberately replicating the head-forward/neck scrunched position. 

“You can exaggerate the position and experience the symptoms. Then when you find yourself doing it, you can become aware and stop.”

He advises: 

  • Keeping your head straight on your neck without leaning forwards
  • Increasing the font size on your computer screen
  • Wearing computer reading glasses
  • Placing your computer on a stand at eye level so you can read without strain.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Biofeedback.


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