My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally

Dear, Anita,

 I LOVE being busy at work. Frankly, I work better under pressure and need a demanding schedule to keep me from getting too distracted. However, when I’m trying to get something done quickly, I tense up terribly. I try to catch myself and stop it, but by the time I start feeling the pain in my back, shoulders, and neck, it’s too late! Then I have to wait until I get home and can lay down to release the tension, and sometimes that doesn’t even work and I’m sore into the following day. What do you do for it?!

Dear, Tense Spence,

I hear you! Neck and shoulder tension is something that, as a writer, I deal with on a regular basis. Check out my previous article on workplace ergonomics:

Tense man at deskI am a proponent of getting away from my desk at regular intervals. You sound like the type of person who regularly eats lunch at your desk. Even if you have a demanding schedule, taking your lunch break can actually help you increase productivity by providing a nutritional as well as cognitive recharge. It’s said that Albert Einstein actually came up with the theory of relativity while on a bike ride.

Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is a concept born at Hewlett Packard in the 1970s. Impromptu visits to employees and coworkers often generate more good ideas, as well as increased morale, than waiting for reports or other more formalized processes.  It’s also a good excuse for supervisors to get away from their desks and move around.

I am fortunate, if you could call it that, to have one of those newfangled energy-efficient motion sensor light fixtures above my workspace. Whenever I am very still for long periods of time (except for my flying fingers), the light turns off. I use this as a not-so-subtle reminder to stretch and wave my arms so I won’t be in the dark and end up stiff-necked.

There are exercises and yoga poses that could ease your stiffness before it sets in. Learn some basic stretches that you can do at your desk in this YouTube video: After you get past the first pose, where you imitate SNL’s Mary Katherine Gallagher with her hands in her armpits, you can complete this yoga break at your desk with little embarrassment.

Readers: Is neck, shoulder, or back pain a problem for you? How do you relieve your tension at work?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. myammynew
    Nov 18, 2013 @ 10:38:17

    Thank you for Four Minutes with Rodney Yee- what a gift! He is great! I feel better all ready…Cheers. Mayammy 101



  2. GSchneider
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 21:33:10

    Some employers provide desk exercise kits to their employees to help with the stresses of sitting for long periods. These often include a resistance band, stress ball (alleviates stress and potential carpel tunnel risks for hands) and instructions for simple exercises that can be accommodated in a small area – like a cubicle. If your employer doesn’t provide one, its easy to bring your own kit and develop a stretching routine that works for you and your office environment.



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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