How to Avoid Neck Pain at the Office

8 Ergonomic Tips for Computer Screen Choice and Placement

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Does this sound like you?  After a day at work, you have terrible neck pain and shoulder pain?  Do your eyes hurt?  Do you have a headache?  If so, then this article should be helpful for you: it's full of tips for how to avoid neck pain at the office

It will focus on making sure you are using the best computer screen for your needs, as well as positioning the screen to avoid twisted postures while working. In addition, eyestrain and headaches can be caused by uncorrected vision, poor image quality, screen glare, and by screen viewing distance.  Checking all these details can help you prevent neck pain that may be accompanied by upper back pain.

man sitting in front of a computer monitorTip #1:  Check Your Vision
Make sure your vision is properly corrected before you make changes to your computer screen set up. Natural changes in vision occur in the early 40s. Periodic eye examinations by a qualified professional are valuable.

At our spine clinic, we recommend that people who use the computer on a daily basis obtain eye wear specifically for computer use. In addition, we encourage the top of the screen to be at eye level or 2-inches above eye level. In regard to the sitting position, we recommend being seated in a chair fitted to your body type with good back support to maintain a neutral position of the spine.
---Mary Beth Ponzo, DPT

Tip #2:  How's the Image Quality on Your Screen?
Make sure the screen image is:

  • sharp (not fuzzy)
  • stable (not jittery or flickering)
  • bright enough for comfortable viewing.

If not, try adjusting the screen brightness, contrast, refresh rate, and resolution to give you the best quality image.

The screen image must be a comfortable viewing size. Most software programs allow you to magnify your screen content to a comfortable size. If screen content is too small (or large), then select a different font size or use the zoom function.

Tip #3:  Avoid Screen Glare
The screen should be free from any bright reflections (specular glare), and the screen image should not appear to be 'washed out' (veiling glare).

To avoid glare, you might need to reposition the screen, dim the overhead lights, or use an antiglare filter to cover the screen.

Sometimes a hood can be placed around the screen or the screen can be slightly tilted up or down to eliminate the glare. Using a privacy filter on your screen can help because you will only be able to read your screen when you are properly aligned with it.

Tip #4:  Watch How Far Away Your Screen Is
The screen should be at a comfortable horizontal distance for viewing. If you can't position this at a comfortable viewing distance, it is better for the eyes to have the screen too far away and zoom into the content rather than sit too close to the screen. The most comfortable viewing distance is usually is at least an arm's length away from your body.

Tip #5:  Make the Screen High Enough
The ideal vertical position for the screen depends on the size of the screen and the size of the casing around the screen. Your eyes should be in line with an imaginary point on the screen about 2-inches below the top of the visible screen image when you are seated comfortably.

Several research studies have confirmed the best position for most users is to have the center of the screen about 17-18 degrees below horizontal for optimal viewing.

Tip #6:  Don't Make Yourself Twist to Look at the Screen
Neck pain can be caused by working in a twisted posture. To eliminate neck twisting, place the computer monitor directly in front and facing you; not at an angle to left or right side. A screen that is too high or low can also cause neck and shoulder strain. You will tilt your head backwards to look up if the screen is too high and crane your neck forwards if too low.

Tip #7:  Adjust Screen Position for Your Corrective Eyewear
If you wear bifocals or progressive lens, you may have to make minor adjustments to the screen position. However, if you sit back in your chair in a relaxed, reclined posture and follow the above guidelines, you should be able to see the screen without an awkward neck posture.

Tip #8:  Get a Document Holder
If you also work with paper documents, you should use a document holder that positions the paper so it can be comfortably seen. This might involve using either an in-line document holder that fits between the keyboard and screen; a document holder mounted at the side of the screen; or a freestanding document holder positioned next to the screen and slightly angle closer to you.

Concluding Thoughts on Avoiding Neck Pain at the Office
Why not try a few of these ergonomic tips at your office or workplace computer setting? You might be surprised to find that by making a few adjustments, working at a computer can be more comfortable and increase your efficiency, too!  The overall bonus, though, is that these tips may help you avoid neck pain.

Updated on: 03/28/17
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Back Care for Sitting Work
Mary Beth Ponzo, PT, DPT, MS
At our spine clinic, we recommend that people who use the computer on a daily basis obtain eye wear specifically for computer use. In addition, we encourage the top of the screen to be at eye level or 2-inches above eye level. In regard to the sitting position, we recommend being seated in a chair fitted to your body type with good back support to maintain a neutral position of the spine.
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