Neck pain is a common problem in office workers who work long hours sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen.
Numerous factors are considered to be the cause of this neck pain in office workers, including sustained poor postures, inefficient desk or chair ergonomics, and exposure to changes in visual stimuli, to name a few.
People often seek the help of physiotherapists, chiropractors, masseuses/myotherapists, osteopaths etc. to help manage their neck pain, through addressing the factors listed above.
But what if something simple, like having weakness of the neck muscles, is the main contributing factor to their neck pain, that is being overlooked?
A systematic review by Louw et.al. (2017) appraised the current research on whether exercise is a good treatment for neck pain. Of the 8 studies included for review, 5 showed significant improvements in neck pain when doing strengthening exercises involving the neck. A meta-analysis of the studies’ data showed a clinically significant difference favouring strengthening exercise over no exercise in neck pain reduction.
But what neck muscles are best to train in order to reduce neck pain in office workers? Another study by Borisut et.al. (2013) looked at training deep neck muscles vs. superficial neck muscles in the treatment of neck pain in female office workers. They found no significant differences between each intervention group in the treatment of neck pain, however BOTH intervention groups had significantly reduced pain levels by utilising strength and endurance training for the neck muscles.
What do these results tell us?
Well, if you are one of those unlucky office workers who struggles with neck pain, especially if you have tried numerous passive treatments such as massage, mobilisations or manipulations, strength training exercises of the neck muscles may be extremely beneficial to you! These exercises can target both superficial and deep neck musculature, and should be specific to the needs of each individual. They should be of relatively high-load, so that there is increased motor-unit recruitment and increased muscle co-ordination of the neck muscles.
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The effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain
Non-specific neck pain is a common health problem of global concern for office workers. This systematic review ascertained the latest evidence for the effectiveness of therapeutic exercise versus no therapeutic exercise on reducing neck pain and improving quality of life (QoL) in office workers with non-specific neck pain.