How can you avoid neck and back pain while sitting at your desk?
How can you avoid neck and back pain while sitting at your desk?

How can you avoid neck and back pain while sitting at your desk?

Especially with the increasing number of people who are privileged-enough to be working from home, there are a lot of questions about how you should sit at your desk. Low back pain and neck pain that come from too much computer use are all too common, but have easy fixes! Read on for the top three things you can do to improve your workstation posture, and check out this link for a workstation self-assessment from the National Institutes of Health.

By, Stephanie Dillon, PT, DPT, WCS

I feel like the longer I sit at my desk, I start to feel eye strain and neck pain. What can I do about these problems?

This question has two answers: the alignment of your head and neck, and the angle of your computer screen. And fixing the angle of your screen may also improve your head and neck alignment! Your computer screen should be directly in front of you, slightly below eye level, and about one arm’s length away from you. If you find yourself having difficulty reading the screen, then increasing the font size can help tremendously! Difficulty reading or seeing the screen tends to make your head drift forwards, which then causes the entire body to start to slouch. Ideally you should be able to have your ears right over your shoulders, with the chin slightly tucked, and still be able to see the screen well. Keeping this head and neck alignment really helps to relieve strain on the neck bones and muscles. It might feel awkward at first, but it can go a long way in relieving pain!

Wow! Ok I have a lot to think about there. But what about my office chair? Doesn’t that have something to do with it?

Absolutely—getting an office chair that is supportive to your body is key. One of the most-important things to consider with an office chair is adjustable armrests. Most of us, for whatever reason, fall into the habit of not using the armrests on our chairs. But then you are relying upon your neck and shoulders to hold your arms up all day long while you are typing or using the mouse! Obviously this can lead to neck and shoulder pain, plus make the shoulders drift up towards the ears. So you want to make sure that you can adjust your armrests so they are actually usable for you, regardless of the rest of your workstation setup. Your elbows should be at about 90 degrees of flexion, or at a right angle. And you should be able to rest your elbows on the armrests, but still reach your keyboard comfortably.

But what about my lower back? It will also get achy the longer I sit, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Yes this is common, and again has a lot to do with your office chair. Ideally you want the curve of your lower back to be supported by the chair, and your hips and knees to be at about 90 degree angles. Both feet should also be comfortably supported on the floor. So again adjustability of the chair is key—you may need to change the angle of your seat specifically so that you are at least at 90 degrees at the hips, or even so the thighs are slightly below that 90-degree angle. You may also need to think about the depth of the seat, so that your knees can be flexed comfortably without being too bent. And if your lower back isn’t supported by the chair, then adding a cushion or pillow can go a long way to help your achy lower back.

How can MommaStrong help? MommaStrong has some really wonderful resources to help you learn how to sit with good posture, plus some great 5-minute hacks about undoing everything that sitting does to you! You can find a video on “how to sit,” two “sitting recovery” hacks, and even a “too much computer time” hack all in our Hacks section. Remember frequent breaks from sitting are important too, and with these hacks MommaStrong gives you easy ways to build small amounts of movement into your day!


Photo copyright MommaStrong, Inc.