Just how useful are head rests or neck rests on a chair?
Well that depends on what you intend to do in the chair. The first thing you need to know is that neck rests are not designed to allow you to work and rest your head at the same time so if you think your neck will be more comfortable while you work than you are likely to be very disappointed.
Do you need a head rest?
Neck rests, as with mouse rests, keyboard rests, foot rests and most other rests are designed to support your head when you are resting, not while you are working. An exception is a neck rest in a moving vehicle which is a safety design to minimise the consequence of whiplash. So if you have long periods of sitting in a chair just observing, such as in a control room or security office or perhaps you spend much of your time talking on the phone where you don’t need to write or use the computer than it may be a useful addition because you can rest back on to the head rest.
So why aren’t head rests more useful
People mistakenly think a neck rest will make working more comfortable but they don’t consider the following facts.
Firstly, the vast majority of people sitting at a computer working are either writing or keying or using a mouse so that their head is looking forward or slightly down. In this position it is almost impossible to make use of a head rest.
Secondly, a comfortable neck posture is largely determined by the posture of your pelvis and low back so if you want to minimise neck pain than you really need to consider the position of your whole spine. The spine does not come in separate segments but are all joined together and it is not possible to improve the posture of one section independently of the other.
Thirdly neck pain is most likely aggravated by activities you are doing and resting the neck more will not make a significant difference to the discomfort you get while working.
You need to look at
- the position of your neck, the amount of twisting,
- the position of your arm while using the mouse
- the position of the computer
- how easily you can view the text on the screen.
Fourthly, neck stiffness is better managed with movement and exercise than with resting.
So why do people want head rests?
Head rests look grand, they make the chair look imposing and important but they don’t improve neck position while working. It just isn’t that easy. You need to look at your posture, the layout of your workplace, and your techniques to see where the problem lies.
That’s not to say that loads of people don’t like their head rest. They probably do, its just that head rests don’t really make any difference to the load on the neck and therefore neck pain and stiffness, so the money would probably be better spent on providing training in how to set up and work at a computer.
There are of course situations where the use of head rests is recommended, particularly for people with neurological conditions.