Posture And Neck Pain – Ergonomics And Exercise Tips For The Office Worker

Your posture greatly affects your musculoskeletal health. Assessing and correcting your posture may be a “big load off your shoulders” and neck!

Do you find yourself rubbing your neck and shoulders during or after work? Continued forward head and rounded shoulder posture could be the reason. Is your working posture the culprit for those sore muscles, neck pain and headaches?

Assess Your Posture

Michelle Draper, a physiotherapist who works at says your shoulders should be down and relaxed, not rounded forward causing a concaved chest and rounded back appearance. Your head should rest centered over your neck and spine, not chin down and with forward tilt causing a significant bend in your cervical spine. Use a mirror at your desk to assess your postures. You may also ask a co-worker to assess your posture or take a digital photograph of you working at your desk. If your shoulders are rounded, chest concaved, and head forward of your spine you are a good candidate for headaches and neck pain. Understanding the pressures you are placing on your spine is a starting point for correcting this posture.

Poor Posture Leads to Increased Risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders

This common work posture contributes significantly to the risks of cumulative overload and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Rounded shoulder posture places the ligaments of the cervical spine in a sustained end-range stretch. This sustained tension is a mechanical and nutritional overload to the ligaments, leading to ligament pain and swelling. These postures lead to compression of the joints and soft tissues of the upper neck and can give way to headache and neck pain. The posture muscles of the upper spine and shoulder blades are also placed on sustained stretch. This weakens those muscles, which increases the risk of muscle strain and reduced postural endurance. The reduction in endurance increases the risk of back MSDs.

If signs and symptoms are accompanied by tingling, and/or numbness in the shoulder, wrist and hand, an ergonomic assessment and medical evaluation should be conducted.

Exercises to Reduce the Discomfort in the Neck and Shoulders

Do 3 sets of 3 neck exercises 3 times a day at morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks.

Rotate left and right, and hold each posture for 10 to 15 seconds.
Do lateral cervical flexion (side bends) on right and left sides, holding each for 10 to 15 seconds.
Shrug your shoulders slowly, up, back and down.

These tips and exercises are intended for use as a resource to reduce your ergonomic and MSD risks. A comprehensive ergonomic evaluation and/or medical evaluation should be conducted if you experience prolonged or severe signs and symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder.