Why the heck do we tighten our neck and shoulders every time we sit down at the computer?

Did you know that when you concentrate, or when you are stressed, your nervous system pulls your head forward and down and tightens your neck and shoulder muscles? In fact, without careful understanding and practice, you will do this automatically every time you sit down for a busy day of computer work.

Don’t just take my/our word for it. With the help of smartphone camera* or a webcam, you can test this yourself. Sit down with your laptop off. Put yourself in a nice, long sitting posture (above photo-left) and take a timed selfie or webcam shot from the side view (use a tripod or prop your camera against some books or something). Reset the timer for 2 minutes, and then open your laptop and start working… type an email, read an article, something that really absorbs you. Continue until you get snapshot number 2. Chances are very high that, even though you started with the best of intentions, your head will have pulled forward into a tense slouch towards the screen (above photo-right) and you weren’t conscious of the change as it was happening.

Think about how strange this is. There is no particular reason for your head to get pulled forward. Your neck is not tired. In fact, with the neck forward, your upper back muscles are working harder. Its like your body wants to make itself uncomfortable. So why the heck do we do it? No one really knows.

What we do know is that doing this sitting at computer for long periods of time with your head pulled forward will lead to neck, shoulder, and back soreness, which can develop into chronic pain and/or a nasty permanent slump.

*if your camera time is not long enough and you don’t have removable webcam, you can download an app. to extend the camera timer.

In part 2 of this series, read about the science of computer neck