Ergonomic Articles

6 Steps to relieve neck pain and manage tension headaches

By Pippa Bowden | Added 2015-06-24

Poor ergonomics and a bad working posture are the two main causes of neck pain and tension headaches. Painful knots that develop from poor workstation setup can result in severe muscle strain in the shoulders, upper back, head and neck. Your face and neck have over 20 muscles and they can be negatively affected by poor posture in the following ways:


  • Doing a lot of paperwork and positioning your computer screen too low causes you to bend forward for prolonged periods of time. This bending makes it much more likely that the discs in your neck will experience bulging. This bulging is responsible for pressure-causing nerve irritation which results in all sorts of pain and uncomfortable symptoms. Such as: hand or arm numbness, pins and needles in the arms and hands and/or neck pain.
  • When straining to view your screen, you also strain your eye muscles. This is because they are then working harder than they should to view it. The result in fatigue and strain of these muscles.
  • Work stress can often make you clench your jaw and your teeth without realising it. These two stress-induced actions cause the muscles in the face to tense up and result in pain, discomfort and headaches.
  • If your monitor is not placed correctly and is set too high, you may find yourself looking upwards for extended periods. This causes the facet joints (where your neck vertebra overlap) to become inflamed and irritated. This can cause great discomfort and sharp neck pain when you turn your head.


All of these injuries listed above are more likely to affect you if you have had an earlier strain and problems such as injuries from surgery, whiplash or having a fall. This is because such accidents leave behind scarred tissue, which is far more fragile and rigid. But don’t panic! These six steps will help you manage tension and prevent pain:


Step one:

Try to keep your spine in the ‘neutral spine position’ as discussed in our earlier what is ergonomics article. And when you need to correct your posture, do so by starting at the bottom of your spine and moving slowly up.


Step Two:

Set up your workstation optimally as discussed in our workstation setup article, so that your monitor, desk, mouse, keyboard, paperwork and chair are all correctly placed. This will maximize comfort and minimize strain.


Step Three:

Do the stretches and exercises as set out on your exercise sheet. This will help promote and keep your neck and shoulders flexible and strong.


Step Four:

For better neck and shoulder pain relief, do your stretches when your muscles are relaxed and warm. You can warm them by having a bath or using a heating pad. Alternatively, do them in the shower!


Step five:

Use movement and exercise to relieve stress. Whether it is by taking regular walks, joining the gym or signing up for yoga classes, doing activities will help fight tension.


Step Six:

See a physiotherapist or a doctor and get properly checked out if the pain and discomfort continues.

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