How to Relieve Back and Neck Pain at Work

If you suffer from back pain and/or neck pain after staring at a computer screen all day, you’re not alone.

The good news is that back and neck pain relief can be possible with minimal changes to your workspace and daily habits.

Try these proven tips and start enjoying increased comfort right away.

How to Relieve Back Pain and How to Relieve Neck Pain

1. Optimize Your Ergonomics

As surprising as it sounds, a lot of neck and back pain - as well as pain in your wrists, hands, legs, feet - can be caused by a poor monitor, keyboard, chair, and desk setup. Setting up your workspace for ergonomics can bring you instant relief.

The Stand Up Desk Store Guide to Better Posture offers excellent insights on desk setup for both sitting and standing. If you prefer to watch a video, check out our Proper Standing Posture.

In general, strive to keep your back, neck, and wrists straight. You want your elbows to be at a 90-degree angle regardless if you’re sitting or standing at your desk. When sitting at your desk, you want your feet flat on the floor with your hips and knees at 90-degree angles. Your monitors should be roughly an arm’s reach away, with the top edge of your monitor at eye level or slightly higher. You also want the monitor to have a slight backward tilt. When tilting the monitor, however, keep an eye out for glare from overhead lights.

 

2. Take Short Walking Breaks

A lot of pain and stiffness comes from staying too long in a static position. Getting up and walking around at least once every hour improves circulation and gives your muscles and joints a chance to move. This is especially true with regard to the hips. Sitting for extended periods can cause hips to become too tight, which can lead to pain in your lower back, hips, and knees.

You don’t need to go for a long walk to find benefit. A trip to the water cooler, a quick visit to a coworker’s desk down the hall, or (if working from home) a short excursion downstairs to check on your laundry is plenty.

Just make sure you get up at least once every hour and move around for at least 60 seconds.

3. Try Some Stretches and Exercises at Your Desk

Tight muscles can be another cause of back and neck pain. Naturally, some stretching can help. A series of easy desk exercises, meanwhile, can help strengthen your core, plus get your blood pumping and joints moving, helping to mitigate stiffness caused by inactivity.

There are tons of great resources online to check out. We recommend our 5 Best Neck Stretches to Do at Work, 10 Best Office Stretches and Office Exercises to Do at Your Desk, and our Top 5 Abs Workouts for Your Desk.

4. Avoid Text Neck

It’s tempting to check our phones for the latest cat videos, but repeatedly bending your head forward to look at a tiny phone screen can have consequences. Unless you’re receiving an important call or text, leave your phone in your pocket and save the funny memes for after work. Your neck will appreciate the break.

5. Avoid Laptop Neck, Too

The suggestions outlined in tip #1 are virtually impossible to follow when using a laptop computer. Why? Since the keyboard and monitor are connected to each other, no matter where you put the laptop, either the keyboard will be too high, or the monitor will be too low.

Most often, the keyboard wins the battle, forcing us to look down at our laptop monitors for hours on end…resulting in a sore neck.

Fortunately, there are two easy solutions: use a separate monitor, or a separate keyboard. Using a separate keyboard allows you to raise the laptop screen to a proper height (many ergonomic experts recommend placing the top edge of your monitor at eye level). If using a separate screen, keep the laptop keyboard at a height where your elbows stay at 90 degrees and your wrists remain straight.

6. Use an Adjustable Height Standing Desk

Switching to a desk that lets you alternate between sitting and standing may work wonders for your back and neck. The simple act of standing can help promote better posture and spinal alignment, plus it promotes healthy movement, and gives a regular break to the muscles you use to hold a posture when sitting.

We recommend starting slowly and gradually working up to your Ideal Sitting and Standing Desk Ratio. Then, transition from sitting to standing at least once every hour and enjoy a healthier, happier, and likely more pain-free workday.