Neck pain and computer use

Neck pain is strongly associated with excessive use of computers.

Office workers have a higher incidence of neck pain than people in any other occupation. However, the relationship between symptoms and risk factors is currently still unclear.

A recent research study was conducted by the University of Queensland to examine the relationship between self-reported neck pain and a range of individual and work-related factors. Office workers both with and without neck pain were recruited for the study.

All participants completed a survey, which included a numerical pain rating scale and such independent variables as:

  • Demographic
  • Individual
  • Work-related factors
  • Neck/shoulder muscle strength
  • Endurance
  • Range of motion

So what were the results of the study?

Neck pain was significantly associated with females in senior occupational roles and those working more than 6 hours a day on the computer, which resulted in a reduced cervical flexion.

Many of our patients here at Scoliosis SOS find that they struggle with being seated at a computer for long periods of time. There are lots of ways in which patients can adapt their seated position to ensure they stay in their corrected posture. We encourage patients to take regular breaks from their computers and ensure they know how to cope when working at a desk.

If you suffer from scoliosis or neck pain, please contact us today. Our experts can offer advice, treatment and a spinal/ergonomic assessment.

Bad Posture

Scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) can be caused by all sorts of different factors. For example, if your muscles are weakened by a condition such as cerebral palsy or Guillain-Barré syndrome, this can lead to a curvature of the spine that progresses over time. Some children are born with scoliosis because their spines didn't develop properly in the womb; on the other hand, scoliosis sometimes develops much later in life due to the deterioration of the spine's intervertebral discs with age. Of course, the vast majority of scoliosis sufferers have idiopathic scoliosis, which usually arrives with puberty and has no known cause.

But now that we've covered some of the things that do cause scoliosis, let's talk about something that definitely doesn't.

Bad posture doesn't cause scoliosis...

Bad posture can have a very detrimental effect on your general health, but there is no evidence that slouching in a chair or hunching over your laptop can cause scoliosis. As we recently clarified in our Scoliosis Myths blog post, the same goes for:
  • Wearing a rucksack on just one shoulder
  • Playing a heavy guitar
  • Carrying weighty loads on your back
The causes of scoliosis are many and varied, but generally speaking, the condition only ever arises as a result of genetic factors or neuromuscular / skeletal deterioration. Poor posture is not a recognised cause of scoliosis.

...but bad posture is still bad for you!

Of course, just because something doesn't cause scoliosis doesn't mean that it can't affect your health in other ways. We've discussed the effects of bad posture in previous blog posts, but we'd like to briefly revisit the potential consequences of postural health now, just to make sure you understand them.

Bad posture CAN cause:
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Arm pain
  • Hyperkyphosis (another curvature of the spine - hyperkyphosis is a forward curve, whereas scoliosis goes sideways)
Our ScolioGold treatment courses can help hyperkyphosis sufferers as well as scoliosis patients - in fact, one of our most famous patients came to us for help combating his hyperkyphosis. Nick "Topper" Headon, who was the drummer for British punk band The Clash (of 'London Caling' and 'Rock the Casbah' fame) from 1977-1982, developed a kyphotic spinal curve after years spent hunching over a drum kit; he completed a two-week course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and this enabled him to come off the medication he had been taking to help him cope with his back pain.

Useful Links:
If you read our recent blog post about the effects of bad posture, you'll know how detrimental postural problems can be to a person's overall health. Unfortunately, certain jobs / activities can put you at a particularly high risk for poor posture - for example, you are more likely to have bad posture if you:
  • Work at a desk
  • Regularly lift heavy objects
  • Play certain musical instruments (drummers are especially prone to bad posture)
  • Frequently drive for long periods
More generally, you may well develop postural problems if you tend to lean on one leg while standing, hunch over your phone while texting, and/or slouch while sitting in a chair.

The good news is that exercise can go a long way to combating the effects of poor posture. Here are three simple posture-improving exercises that are easy to perform in the comfort of your own home:

Shoulder Squeezes

This exercise is great for computer users who spend hours every day leaning over a desk.

Shoulder Squeezes
  1. Sit on a chair (try to find one without arms, as these may get in the way).

  2. Rest your hands on your thighs.

  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together - imagine there is a pencil between your shoulder blades, and you are trying to hold it in place.

  4. While doing this stretch, keep your chin tucked in and your chest high to achieve the right position.

  5. Hold the squeeze for 5 seconds, relax, then repeat several times.

Titanic Stretch

This exercise is good for the shoulders - see if you can work out why we call it the 'Titanic' stretch!

Titanic stretch
  1. Find something to hold onto - we've used our wall bars in the photo above, but a bannister, door frame or towel rail will be fine.

  2. Stand with your back to the bars and hold onto them just above shoulder height. Place your feet together, as close to the wall as possible.

  3. Keeping your arms straight, lean forwards. You should feel a stretch in your chest and at the front of your shoulders.

  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Try to keep your chin tucked in.

  5. Relax and repeat 3 times.

Planking

This exercise strengthens your core muscles and targets the lower back to help improve your posture.

  1. Lie on your front.

  2. Prop yourself up on your forearms and toes, so that your whole body is raised off the floor. Try to place your shoulders right above your elbows and create a straight line from head to toe - you will need to make sure that your legs are straight and your hips raised.

  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds, relax, then repeat several times.
An easier version of this exercise involves resting on your knees instead of your toes, as shown here:

Planking for Beginners

More exercises to try at home:
Disclaimer: The above information should not be treated as medical advice, and the exercises described may not be suitable or beneficial for everyone. You should not begin any exercise routine without consulting a qualified health practitioner, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or if you have any chronic or recurring conditions. Any application of the exercises suggested above is at the reader's sole discretion and risk. Scoliosis SOS accepts no responsibility or liability for any loss or injuries caused directly or indirectly through the performing of any exercises described. If you feel any discomfort or pain during exercise, stop immediately. Always consult your own GP if you are in any way concerned about your health or anything associated with it.
If you work in an office or frequently spend long periods of time driving, it's likely that you may well have poor posture. Bad posture occurs when your spine is held in unnatural positions, putting stress on your joints, muscles and vertebrae. Slouching in your chair, hunching over your keyboard, or looking down at your mobile phone for extended periods can cause a build-up of pressure on these tissues.

Poor Posture

Lower back, neck, shoulder, and even arm pain can be linked to bad posture, and it can lead to even more severe, painful and visible symptoms such as hyperkyphosis.

What is Hyperkyphosis?

Hyperkyphosis is a spinal deformity that causes the thoracic spine (upper back) to have a forward-curved posture. This condition is most commonly associated with people over 40, and it can continue to worsen with age. That said, hyperkyphosis can affect anyone at any time of life, and it is believed that 20-40% of adults will develop this spinal deformity at some point.

Hyperkyphosis sufferers may not recognise a change in back posture at first because the curvature is often quite gradual, but if left untreated, you may find that you are having difficulty performing normal tasks and keeping your balance. Some people will also experience upper back pain and spinal fractures as the condition advances. 

Hyperkyphosis can be treated by undergoing surgery, but like most surgical procedures, there are a number of risks. If you're put off by the prospect of having surgery to treat your condition, you'll be glad to know that we at Scoliosis SOS treat spinal conditions (including hyperkyphosis) using our non-surgical treatment method called ScolioGold

ScolioGold is a mixture of exercise-based techniques that are continuously monitored and developed to ensure that all aspects of the patient's condition are fully treated. For more information on our ScolioGold treatment method, click here. If you have any questions or you wish to book a consultation, please contact our clinic today.
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