Manage Neck Pain at Work with Proper Monitor Placement

First Published: December 24, 2017. Updated: June 14, 2023

Do you work with your face stuck in a screen?
If so, you may upping your risk for a serious condition, or at the very least, nagging discomfort in neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
Proper monitor placement may help prevent this.

Where is Your Flat Screen Monitor Placed?

These days most of us are very into our flat screen monitors. 

If this is you, you’re probably encouraging bad neck positioning simply by using this piece of equipment.

This is because the screen will likely be placed too far away to support good head on neck alignment, and instead will encourage you to crane your head forward.

In general, experts recommend monitors be placed between 18 and 24 inches away from your face. 

Not excited by the idea of whipping out the measuring tape?

Position monitor 18 to 34 inches away from you for best neck alignment and posture.

An easier way to tell if your monitor distance is in the ballpark is to extend one arm out straight, parallel with the floor. Do your fingers touch the screen? If so, you’re likely in good shape as far as horizontal placement of the monitor is concerned.

If you have no option but to use a flat screen (or any type of) monitor at the very back of your desk where it’s too far away, use a common sense workaround:

Enlarge the text on your screen.

This is usually done by going into your system settings.

I googled “how to change text size on screen” and found good instructions for a wide variety of operating systems. Just add your operating system’s name to the end of this keyword phrase to get the exact instructions you need. For example, how to change text size on screen Mac, or how to change text size on screen Windows 11, etc.

Experts also recommend the top of the monitor align with the line of sight (or just a little below that.) This is a biggie for protecting yourself from neck pain.

Do You Wear Glasses?

Wearing glasses — specifically bifocals or progressives — may limit your ability to clearly and comprehensibly access the data displayed on your monitor.

If you wear bifocals, you may be able to get away with lowering your monitor a bit. Experiment to find the right level for you. 

If nothing works, or if you wear progressive lenses, experts  recommend computer glasses.

How to Use a Combination of Paper and Screen, Safely for Your Neck

Typing text in from a paper document is another potential risk to your neck. 

This practice may encourage you to keep your neck bent (in flexion) which could precipitate a disc injury, flat neck posture and/or too much neck muscle tension in general.

Or, it might lead you to twisting your neck back and forth throughout the day.

Depending on frequency, this repeated twisting action may be an official risk factor for injury, pain or discomfort, called repetitive motion.

Monitor on left. Document holder next to it on right with a document on it.

So if your job requires frequent inputting of data from paper copies, consider investing in a document holder.

They are not particularly expensive.

The biggest factor in selecting a document holder is that it keeps your reference papers straight in front of you, in your “primary work zone.” 

If you use the document holder to eliminate the need to twist or turn, you’ve made a good purchase. An extra perk, and necessary for some necks, is to get one that keeps you from having to look down at the copy on the desk surface.

While it won’t address everything you need for good office ergonomics, using a document holder in combination with a keyboard tray may be of value in the attainment of well aligned head on neck posture at work.

If you go this route, make sure both keyboard and mouse fit on the tray; they should be on the same level to help you avoid forearm, wrist and finger strain.

In the Case of Multiple Monitors

Many people connect more than one monitor to their CPU.

If you do complex work where you are in and out of databases, on and off Zoom all day long, you interface with the command line, email, websites and other typical tools, and/or you use specialized peripherals that are connected to your computer, most likely you have at least two monitors going at all times.

For this, experts recommend using one monitor for the bulk of your work and the other for reference data and quick info capture. 

Keep the main monitor directly in front of you.

One of the best ways to properly set up multiple monitors on one desk is to purchase (and use) monitor arms.

Regardless of the number of monitors in use, placing all of them at the same height, with the tops at approximately eye level or just a little below, is recommended.

Otherwise, you’ll probably incur awkward neck posture, a risk factor for neck pain, injury and/or conditions. 

Another potential risk to your neck is repetitive twisting. Many workers do this without realizing it as as they refer back and forth from the various monitors on their desk. 

Experiment angling with your monitors in to address this.

Makin' Eyes at You...

Palming Eyes make a great quickie work break at the computr

Computer related eye strain is real.

A super easy thing you can do to relax your hard-working eye muscles is to, from time to time, look away from your monitor and do a few eye exercises.

"Palming" is very basic way to refresh eyes and vision. Here's how:

Simply rub your two palms together briskly for about 15-20 seconds. Then gently, lightly place hands over eyes for as long as it feels good to them.  

Cover your eyes fully, but don't press your palms in.


Gentle covering can go a long way towards ameliorating the effects the monitor screen has on your vision as well as the face, eye and neck muscles that serve it. No need to get aggressive with this. Keep the palming light.

Is Your Monitor Off to the Side?

Even if you only need one monitor to get your work done, be sure it’s in the right place. 

Again, your primary work tools — and a monitor certainly qualifies — should be placed directly in front of you to encourage neutral positioning of key joints.

What is neutral positioning?

Neutral positioning is a state of balance where the bones that make up a joint are centered relative to each other. 

When a joint is in neutral, the bones fit well together, and muscles can, to a great extent, relax out their chronic tension.

When your monitor is off to one side, it forces your neck, head and possibly your shoulders into static, non-neutral positioning. And likely, you'll be in this position for hours on end.

This type of positioning, called awkward posture, is an ergonomic risk factor that affects office workers. Awkward posture is the #1 most common risk factor for work-related discomfort, pain or injury.

Awkward posture forces muscles to tighten. This has the effect of keeping joints out of alignment, making even more muscle tension.

Who needs that?

Especially for 8+ hours every day…