Sitting: It Really IS a Pain in the Neck!

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Published on November 20, 2014

Neck Pain Caused By Bad Posture While Sitting

Neck pain is a very common problem, second only to low back pain in its frequency in the general population.  While some of this pain is the result of chronic underlying conditions, many cases can be managed by taking a few simple steps in your everyday life.

Posture & Its Effect On Neck Pain

If you have to choose one thing to decrease your neck pain, the first thing would be the improvement in your posture.  In modern society, millions of people are forced to sit slumped over looking at a computer for more than 8 hours a day. Many people usually assume the sitting posture with arms extended and head projected forward, causing muscle fatigue and tightness in the shoulder and neck area. Prolonged exposure to the poor posture can progress into irritation in the small joints and muscles in the neck and spill-over pain between the shoulder blades, upper back, and into the head.

Is There a Perfect Seated Posture?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect seated posture. Any prolonged sitting posture, even a “good” one, can cause fatigue and tightness because muscles are still working hard to sustain that posture.

Poor postures are more likely to cause these issues and lead to extra pressure on the body. The best way to prevent this is by alternating the sitting posture frequently. For example, sitting at the edge of the seat with a straight back and a forward tilted pelvis can be alternated with sitting back against the support of the chair to lessen the work of back and neck muscles.

Always try to maintain a relaxed yet supported posture. In any position, sit up straight so your ears, shoulders and hips are in one nice vertical line. Take a break from sitting every hour to stretch, stand or walk.

Workstations and Desks

The placement of the desk and work station can be altered to improve upper back and neck posture and maintain the symmetry of repetitive tasks as much as possible.

  • The position of the computer screen should be at eye level.
  • Elbows should be at the side, forearms about 90 degrees to the arms.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor or foot step, with slight flexed ankle.
  • The thighs should be about 90 degrees to the lower legs and low back.

Consult an Expert

If you are suffering from consistent pain for a few days, you might consider getting help from your medical doctor or chiropractor. While pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs are often used to control pain and inflammation, chiropractors use a variety of non-invasive, hands-on therapies to reduce inflammation and pain, reduce muscle spasms and improve the motion of your joints.

A substantial proportion of people with neck pain continue to have neck pain for many months, despite self-care and posture modification. Chronic neck pain can be debilitating to your health and have a negative effect on your quality of life. Your chiropractor, physician and other health professionals are well prepared to help you with this problem. Many of these health professionals are also doing research on chronic neck pain to try to identify the most useful treatments.

Current Neck Pain Study Opportunities

A group of researchers at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in Toronto have been awarded a major grant from the US National Institutes of Health to study chronic neck pain.  The study currently being conducted at CMCC is investigating the effects of two kinds of chiropractic treatments for chronic neck pain.

This study involves only a short period of time commitment from people with chronic neck pain.  Eligible subjects will be required to receive one of two kinds of treatments for three visits over seven to 10 days.  These treatments will be provided at no cost, and subjects who complete the three treatments will receive an additional $50 in compensation.

This study is currently actively seeking participants.  To inquire about this study, please contact Ms. Maricelle Dinulos at 416 482 2340, ext 266 (North York) or Dr. Joyce Lee at 416-324-5069 (Downtown). You can also reach them at If you are not eligible for the study, you will be offered the opportunity to visit the CMCC Campus Clinic where interns and clinicians can address your problem.

Joyce Lee, BSc, DC, CSCS
Graduate Studies and Research Program
Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, 6100 Leslie St.
Toronto, ON