Why incorrect posture at work can be a right pain in the neck

If your job involves you sitting at a desk for long periods then odds are you’ll be aware of the dangers of back pain and getting your chair and desk set up properly. Often this is something people are quick to self-diagnose and we’ve helped plenty of patients in both dealing with back-pain and in improving their office set-up.

We’ve also seen all manner of ideas to prevent the problem, from sitting on gym balls to standing desks or even treadmill desks. All of these were designed to improve our posture and to help prevent problems occurring.

But there’s another issue that can come from sitting down for too long and it’s one where the blame often falls in the wrong place. Ever suffered from headaches at work and just assumed it was down to a lack of sleep, stress or perhaps even a few too many wines the night before?

A cervicogenic headache is one which is referred from the structures in and around the neck and it’s one of the most common types of headache, particularly for desk-based workers.

It generally onsets due to sustained poor postures, such as a poking chin’ posture. This can lead to overworked muscles as well as overloaded discs, joints and nerves. Pain can then refer up the back of the neck to the base of the skull, jaw, and along the inside of the head to just behind the eye, demonstrated nicely in this picture. The pain may be intermittent or constant, and can even reach a point where it becomes too uncomfortable to work.

poking chin
Poking chin posture

So that’s the problem – what’s the solution?

Our advice, particularly for back and neck issues, is always to seek out a professional who can properly diagnose any problems and the cause. However, there are some basic stretches that you can do at work to help deal with this type of headache. Aim to do them all at least once a day, although you will likely get more benefit if you can do them several times. Your physio can progress these exercises as they see fit, and will likely perform various forms of ‘hands on’ treatment.

1. Chin tucks – hold this stretch for 30 seconds, making sure your head stays in touch with the wall at all times
Chin tuck in action
2. “Bear hug” stretch – hold this stretch for 30 seconds, making sure you do not hunch your shoulders. You should feel a stretch across your upper back and/or across the tops of your shoulders
bear hug stretch
3. Foam roller lying – lie in this position for 1 minute. The top of the foam roller should be no higher than the base of your neck
Foam roller stretch
4. Shoulder hunches – repeat this 10 times, nice and slowly. You can also do this using a resistance band by standing on the middle of the band and holding one end in each hand

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