Solutions for shoulder & neck pain at work

Do you have a problem with your shoulders & neck at your desk?

There are obviously many musculoskeletal conditions that can cause shoulder and neck pain, but bad working habits at your desk can aggravate these conditions.

Remember to take regular breaks from your desk and try some neck and shoulder stretches.

Find out more about common causes and solutions below.

Neck pain illustration
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Sitting too low

Sitting too low can cause sustained contraction of the shoulder ‘lifting’ muscles as you raise your arms to use the mouse and keyboard. This causes reduced blood flow to your tissues, leading to fatigue and discomfort

Sitting low can also cause you to look up to read the screen causing neck pain.

Always ensure you are sitting at the correct height relative to your desk and monitor. Read this guide for more information on the correct ergonomic workstation setup.

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Reaching forward or to the side

Working with your elbows close to your body as we would advise allows for a relaxed body position. If you reach forward or to the side to work or lift your elbows, you work the muscles around the shoulder and neck. This is extra, and usually unnecessary, muscle work!

Again having your workstation setup correctly, in particular your mouse and keyboard, will help prevent this.

Read this blog article we wrote for tips on mouse and keyboard setup.

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Poking chin posture

Poor head posture, such as peering at the screen and adopting a ‘poking chin’ posture where the head tilts back an the head moves forward. This can put pressure on the tissues in the neck, causing referred pain in the head, neck, shoulders, arms or hands.

A sustained contraction of the neck muscles to hold your head in this position leads to a reduced flow of blood through the muscle, leading to fatigue and possible damage. The contraction may also put pressure on the nerves in the neck, causing pain in back and sides of the head.

Try and be aware of your head posture. It can help to get a colleague or friend at work to remind you when you are getting into bad habits.

You should also ensure that your monitor is at the correct height (usually the top of screen at eye level) to prevent problems. A monitor arm, stand or even a few books can help achieve this.

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Clamping the telephone between ear and shoulder

This is a very bad habit where workers hold the phone between neck and shoulder to communicate whilst typing or writing with free hands. It causes neck and should pain and should be avoided at all costs.

If you use a telephone regularly at work you should have a headset for your phone.

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Repetitive head movements

If you refer to documents when using the screen and place them on the desk, this can lead to poor repetitive head movements.

A document holder can be a good solution. This will help ensure a reading height and angle close to the monitor, which will minimise head and neck movement.

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Incorrect laptop use

You should not use a laptop for long periods, without setting the laptop up as part of an ergonomic workstation.

This requires the laptop to be setup in a laptop stand with an external mouse and keyboard.

This allows you to have the laptop screen at the correct height which will stop you bending your neck and hunching your shoulders.