Head and Neck Injury Prevention Basics

Head and Neck Injury Prevention Basics

Posted by Uncaged Ergonomics on 6th Mar 2018

Injuries to a person’s neck or back can be debilitating. In serious cases, individuals who sustain these kinds of injuries may be bedridden for weeks or even months while they recover. In addition, victims may experience significant pain that may interfere with their daily life and ability to work. If a person’s spinal cord is affected by a back injury, there is even the potential for paralysis below the site of injury.

There are a number of accidents that can occur at the workplace that may leave victims with serious head and neck injuries. Some of the most common are discussed below.

Slip and fall accidents

The vast majority of people reading this blog will likely have slipped and fallen at some point in their lives. In most cases, a slip and fall accident results in little more than bumps, bruises, and perhaps some embarrassment if the fall occurred in a public place. Sometimes, however, a fall can occur in such a way as to cause injury to the soft tissues in the neck or the back, causing a serious sprain or strain. In some extremely serious cases, people who slip and fall at work may rupture a disc or even damage their spinal cord, potentially leading to serious medical complications.

Motor vehicle accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are another common way in which people often sustain head and neck injuries at work. In many cases, the forces involved in a crash cause the head to snap back and forth on the neck violently, leading to a whiplash injury. These injuries can lead to significant neck pain, headaches, and stiffness—and, in some cases, chronic pain and ongoing medical complications.

Sitting in uncomfortable or awkward positions

Another way in which workers can injure their backs or neck is by sitting in an awkward or uncomfortable position for an extended period of time. According to physicians and chiropractors, sitting places significant strain on the lower back unless proper ergonomic precautions are taken. And, if you don’t maintain your posture while sitting, you can strain nearly every area in your back—this can lead to back pain, headaches, neck pain, and more.

Posture-related injuries from computer use

Back and neck pain, headaches, and shoulder and arm pain are common computer-related injuries. Such muscle and joint problems can be caused or made worse by poor workstation (desk) design, bad posture and sitting for long periods of time. Although sitting requires less muscular effort than standing, it still causes physical fatigue—you need to hold parts of your body steady for long periods of time. This reduces circulation of blood to your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments, sometimes leading to stiffness and pain. If a workstation is not set up properly, these steady positions can put even greater stress on your muscles and joints.

Tips to protect your neck from injury

Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level

Sit comfortably in front of your computer and close your eyes. When you open them, your gaze should be directly in the middle of your computer screen. If you find you have to look down, you need to prop up your monitor so that it is higher. Laptops most often require you to angle your head downward to see the screen, so connecting your laptop to a separate monitor, or screen, is often very helpful.

Avoid neck strain from texting

Texting or looking down at your cell phone or mobile device for any length of time puts excessive strain on your neck. Over time, the added stress on the joints, ligaments, and discs in your neck can lead to premature degenerative changes in your neck. Tips to avoid neck damage from texting include raising the phone or mobile device to eye level, minimizing texting time, resting your hands and device on a pillow, and taking frequent breaks.

Use a headset

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, be sure to avoid tilting your head to the side or cradling your phone in the crook of your neck. Any type of hands-free device, such as a headset or ear piece, is a great way to talk on the phone without being tempted to hold your phone incorrectly. There is also a newer device that lays around your neck, so you can keep it on all day.

Exercise and stretch your neck

Keep your neck muscles strong by doing short sets of strengthening and stretching exercises throughout the day.

Stay well hydrated.

Yet another reason to drink lots of water during the day is to nourish and hydrate the discs—the spongy structures that lie between the vertebrae in your neck. These discs are made up of mostly water, so staying well hydrated will help keep your discs pliable and strong. Cervical discs are susceptible to degeneration over time due to loss of hydration.

Carry weight evenly

A common mistake people make is carrying a heavy purse or briefcase on one side of their body. This uneven load can cause your shoulders to become uneven, straining your neck muscles.

First, try to lighten your load by taking only your essentials in your purse or briefcase, and make an effort to keep your shoulders level at all times when you carry it. Consider using a backpack that distributes weight evenly across both of your shoulders.

Maintain supportive posture

Poor posture can cause neck pain by straining muscles and ligaments that support the neck, resulting in injury over time. The head-and-shoulders-forward posture is the most common example of poor posture that contributes to neck pain. This occurs when the neck slants forward, placing the head in front of the shoulders. For every inch the head shifts forwards, an extra 10 pounds is added to the muscles in the upper back and neck. A 5-inch forward shift results in 50 extra pounds of force. Remember, keep your chin tucked inward to avoid this. This posture causes the upper back to slump forward as well, placing a strain on the entire spine.