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What Is the Connection Between Computers and Neck Pain?

A woman with neck pain.
Article Details
  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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It is important for those who spend large amounts of time using computers to understand the connection between computers and neck pain. Many people know from experience that prolonged computer use can cause the neck to become stiff and achy. What many of these individuals do not know, however, is that this discomfort is often due to monitor positioning, and thus can usually be greatly reduced or even prevented with a few minor adjustments. Regularly performing stretching and strengthening exercises can also help break the link between computers and neck pain.

While working, writing a paper, playing a video game, or just surfing the Internet, the head, shoulders, and upper body are often held in unnatural positions for extended periods of time. In response to this unnatural posture, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints of the neck can become stiff and sore. This pain can range from mild discomfort which is felt only when the head is turned in a certain direction to a sharp, long-lasting ache which severely inhibits the mobility of the neck.

Fortunately, the link between computers and neck pain is breakable. The primary reason that computer users hold their upper bodies in unnatural positions as they work is that their monitors are not correctly positioned on their work space. By adjusting the position of one’s monitor, it is possible to reduce or even prevent computer-related neck pain.

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The first step to breaking the connection between computers and neck pain is ensuring that the monitor is centered in front of the user. This eliminates the need to twist the head, neck, and upper body to face the computer screen. In addition, the monitor should sit at arm’s length from the user, and should be angled so that its top edge rises approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) above the spot where his eyes naturally rest when he looks straight ahead. These two adjustments remove the user’s need to bow or stretch his neck as he works.

If these simple adjustments do not fully shatter the connection between computers and neck pain, a regular routine of stretching and strengthening exercises can help. For a good neck stretch, try letting the head fall toward the chest and then rolling it clockwise and counter-clockwise several times. To strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, grip a 2- or 3-pound dumbbell in each hand and stand with the arms at the sides. Slowly raise the shoulders and then return to the starting position. Perform two sets of ten repetitions, three times weekly.

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