Neck Pain And Computer Use: Exacerbated By Stress?

Neck Pain And Computer Use: Exacerbated By Stress?


Many people who use PCs on a regular basis may find that they develop neck pain as a direct result. Usually neck pain can be experienced where patients are using PCs for 20 or more hours per week.


Referred Neck Pain


One very interesting aspect of neck pain from computer use is the fact that the pain may originate in the neck, but can often be felt in an arm. So the cause of pain in your arm may actually originate from the neck and your arm may not be the original source of pain.


This is called ‘referred pain’ and it occurs where there is a shared supply of nerves between the neck and part of the arm, so the nerve signals are sending messages to the brain that they are experiencing pain and the brain may register this as originating in the arm, when in reality it comes from the neck.


Poor Posture and Neck Pain


Neck pain from computer use is usually a direct consequence of someone adopting poor posture when using a PC. It is common for users not to sit up straight and to lean forwards, or strain their neck when looking up or down at a screen that is not at the correct height. We have all seen people using a laptop when they are clearly not sitting correctly, possibly storing up problems for the future!


The pain is caused by nerves becoming inflamed or certain muscles or ligaments being sprained. Messages are then sent to the brain indicating that pain is being felt.



Stress and Neck Pain


A number of people find that they experience worse neck pain when they are stressed, than when they are relaxed. Ostensibly there would therefore appear to be a direct link between neck pain and stress.


This link is not ‘psychosomatic’ because the neck often becomes much more tense when we are stressed. We have all felt that tension ‘build up’ at the back of the neck, during times of stress. Therefore it is likely that we will feel the neck pain more intensely when the neck is experiencing both tension and stress.


During these times we are also more likely to adopt posture that is bad for the neck: sitting in a hunched position, ‘forgetting’ to take breaks and generally increasing the risk of further pain developing in this area.


Consequently, patients who complain of more neck pain when stressed are actually quite correct in their assertion that this is the case.



Treatment Options


Treatment options vary from intense physiotherapy, to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to prevent pain signals being sent to the brain. Patients will also be advised as to the most appropriate way of working at a PC in such a way that they do not incur further neck pain and strain (even when stressed).


Anyone experiencing neck pain from computer use should have it checked out as early as possible. This not only increases the chances of the condition being successfully treated, but it can also ensure that the cause of the pain is indeed from computer use and not an underlying medical condition that requires further treatment.


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