Is Your Job the Reason You Have Neck Pain?

Jan 09, 2023
Is Your Job the Reason You Have Neck Pain?
In a world that’s largely run through computer and smartphone screens, poor posture and persistent neck pain have become common, interrelated problems. Here’s how forward head posture hurts your neck — and what you can do about it.

Even if you listened when your parents reminded you to “stand up straight” and “keep your shoulders back,” spending much of your time at a desk job can easily undermine your good posture practices and lead to hunched shoulders and chronic slouching. 

The fact that many people — both kids and adults — spend copious amounts of time hunched over computer and smartphone screens means two things: Poor posture is the new norm, and chronic neck pain has become a top complaint in physicians’ offices across the nation. 

At Spine Care of Manassas Chiropractic Center in Manassas, Virginia, we’ve also seen a major increase in the number of patients with job-related neck pain. As pain experts specializing in postural rehabilitation, our experienced chiropractic team can get to the root of your neck pain problem and help you reverse the trend. 

Here, Dr. Lincoln German and Dr. Mikaela Foley discuss how job-related poor posture can lead to chronic neck pain — and explain what you can do about it. 

What constitutes good posture?

Static posture refers to how your body is positioned when standing, sitting, or lying down. Along with your deep abdominal core muscles, your spine and its supporting tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) are the key foundational elements of good static posture. 

Good static posture means maintaining a “neutral spine.” Viewed from the back, a neutral spine forms a vertical line through the center of your body. From the side, a neutral spine possesses three gentle curves that keep it strong, flexible, and ready for easy movement. 

Regarding your neck, neutral posture also means your shoulders are back, your chest is lifted and open, and your ears are situated directly above your shoulders. When your spine is entirely neutral, the weight of your head is balanced and causes minimal neck strain. 

How can my desk job affect my posture?

For many people, spending long hours working on a computer or hunched over a smartphone causes an automatic, unintentional postural change called forward head posture. This seemingly small positional shift that can have major negative effects on your neck. 

Specifically, long stretches of seated (or standing) screen time can cause you to angle your neck forward, positioning the center of your head, or ear line, in front of your shoulders rather than directly above them. This non-neutral head position can cause: 

Cervical spine strain

The human head weighs an average of 10-12 pounds, and your cervical spine experiences this exact amount of weight when your head is in a neutral position. 

But for every inch your head is held forward in poor posture, your cervical spine experiences an additional 10 pounds of gravitational force; just two inches of forward head posture effectively triples the weight load on your neck.

Cervical spine misalignments 

Forward head posture can also create a hyperflexion-hyperextension dynamic within your cervical spine, causing the lower portion to tilt forward as the upper part goes in the opposite direction. Besides overstretching the spinal canal in your neck, this dynamic can set the stage for spine misalignments, disc herniation, and impinged nerve roots.

Neck muscle overload 

Forward head posture also overburdens the muscles along the back of your neck and across your shoulders. As they continuously work to offset the strong pull of a forward-leaning head position, these overloaded muscle groups become more susceptible to strains, spasms, and painful trigger points. 

Imbalanced back muscles

As common secondary effects of forward head posture, hunched shoulders and a rounded upper back can create muscle imbalances through your neck and back, leading to chronic neck, shoulder, and upper back pain

Correct your posture, ease your neck pain

When you spend the better part of your day in a forward head posture, you’re more likely to develop the kind of strain, tension, and imbalance that leads to persistent neck pain and stiffness. If you don’t take action to reverse the trend, you may leave yourself vulnerable to: 

  • Nerve root inflammation and irritation
  • Reduced range of motion and head mobility
  • Earlier or faster cervical spine degeneration
  • Painful cervical disc bulging or herniation

Fortunately, postural rehabilitation — or finding and correcting the postural abnormalities that are causing or contributing to your neck pain — is often all it takes to address these problems and their related risks. This comprehensive approach may include:

  • Identifying exactly how your posture misses the mark
  • Learning what good posture looks and feels like
  • Actively practicing good posture when sitting and standing
  • Performing stretches and strengthening exercises to rectify any existing imbalances
  • Incorporating massage or cold laser therapy to ease muscle tension and strain
  • Using chiropractic adjustments to correct any related misalignments

If you’re ready to say goodbye to neck pain, we can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment with Dr. German or Dr. Foley at Spine Care of Manassas Chiropractic Center in Manassas, Virginia, today.