Cut that pain in the neck

By Andrew Hobbs on January 9th, 2018
  1. Employee health & wellbeing
  2. Wellbeing Programs


WORKING in an office can often mean long hours of sitting – leading workers to adopt postures that can lead to discomfort over time – particularly to the neck and shoulders.

According to the Australian Pain Management Association, neck pain affects almost one-in-five Australians, with almost 50% of people likely to suffer the effects at some point in their lifetime.

The most common type is mechanical neck pain, caused when movement or sustained postures strain the neck, causing pain in the discs, tendons or muscles.

But new research by University of Queensland PhD graduate and physiotherapist Xiaoqi Chen has revealed that using exercises to strengthen the neck and shoulders can be effective in reducing or preventing this type of pain.

The researchers reviewed 27 randomised controlled trials with office worker participants.

Exercise and ergonomic interventions were performed at the workplace, and neck and/or neck and shoulder pain intensity and incidence was compared with data from office workers who had no exercise interventions.

Dr Chen said the researchers found that those who took part in about two thirds of the strengthening exercise sessions showed greater reductions in neck pain, compared to those who were involved less.

“Before our work, evidence on office workers’ neck pain was limited to a single high-quality trial that found combined neck endurance and stretching exercises were effective for office workers at risk,” she said.

“I’m excited that our study feeds into the global body of knowledge but undoubtedly further research into office workers’ neck pain is needed.”

As a physiotherapist, Dr Chen recommends exercises that can be done specifically for neck pain including – but not limited to – shoulder front raises, side raises, reverse flies and shrugs using weights or resistance bands (this is not medical advice but YouTube has some good examples of how to do these exercises).

What else can be done?

Chapter O1 Office Safety in the Health & Safety Handbook says that businesses should take a proactive approach to the hazards posed by poor posture and repetitive movement.

In order to reduce posture and repetitive movement hazards, the Handbook recommends your workers:

  • alternate between computer work and other tasks;
  • take regular breaks from typing and other repetitive activities, e.g. include a pause break every hour;
  • do not sit for too long without movement and exercise and stretch at regular intervals;
  • position desks and chairs so that the elbow is level with or slightly higher than the keyboard;
  • place computer screens at an appropriate distance from the worker, i.e. between 350mm and 750mm;
  • place computer screens at an appropriate height, i.e. the top of the screen should be just below eye level; and
  • follow ergonomic design principles – by ensuring work surfaces and chairs are height adjustable, chairs are stable and footrests are provided, and there is sufficient width and depth for the tasks being carried out.

More tips about office layout, lighting, electrical appliances and slip, trip and fall hazards are available in the chapter.

Click here to order your copy today. 


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