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After a brief overview of four research-backed interventions, this article explains and illustrates why focusing on strengthening exercises provides the greatest benefits in reducing the neck pain associated with computer use.

 

Did you know that our increasing use of computers and screens has led to more neck pain? Sadly, the forward neck posture and hunched shoulders that were once associated with aging are now increasingly common among people of all ages. In fact, it’s alarming to know that “children as young as 15 have shown posture-related early arthritic changes on x-rays” [1].

 

If you are someone who spends long hours in front of a computer, you might be at risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and soft tissue injuries, which are the most significant negative health issues associated with the use of personal computers [2, 3]. In fact, high computer use is considered a major contemporary occupational health problem [4].

 

Managing discomfort and minimising the chance of injury is not easy. Multiple risk factors work independently and accumulatively, so it’s important to think holistically about management strategies. No one treatment or recommendation guarantees a fix that works for everyone.

 

However, there are some interventions you can implement as part of your daily work routine to reduce the risk of neck pain and other issues. These interventions include implementing ergonomics recommendations, ensuring adequate stretching and breaks between periods of work to release tension, regular aerobic exercise, and strengthening exercises for the neck and shoulders.

 

If you are curious about these interventions and the specific strengthening exercises that consistently provide significant benefits to reduce the neck pain associated with computer use, keep reading!

 

Four Research-Backed Actions to Manage Neck Pain

If you’re someone seeking greater control of your health, comfort and quality of work, consider these four interventions when working to minimise computer-use-related neck pain.

1. Ergonomics | Take the time to set up furniture and equipment to avoid working in awkward postures that lead to discomfort or injury.

·         For the WorkSafe Ergonomic guide, Click Here

·         For the possible perils of Sitting and Standing at Work and Professor Alan Hedge advice on “Ideal Work PatternsClick Here.

2. Stretches | Include stretching in your mini and micro-breaks. These release muscle tension and allow recovery time between periods of work. Completing stretches when you feel the tension is important. However, research shows that results are significantly improved when these are completed 3 times a day.

·         For a FREE copy of our illustrated Stretch Guide specifically designed to increase comfort and avoid computer-related injuries, Click Here

3. Aerobic Exercise | A trial of aerobic exercise as a treatment for persons suffering from migraine and co-existing tension-type headache and neck pain was found to significantly reduce migraine frequency, pain intensity and duration, and neck pain intensity[5].

·         Exercises used in this example: bike/cross-trainer/brisk walking for 45 minutes, three times/week.

·         For the Australian Government’s “Make Your Move – Sit Less, Be Active For Life” Campaign, Click Here

4. Muscle Strength | Research shows that a targeted program to strengthen the muscles of the neck and shoulder girdle consistently provided the greatest relief from neck pain associated with long hours of computer use.

 

A Focus on Strength  

While the dominant approach to relieving neck pain is an ergonomic adjustment, if not matched by the right work behaviours, these adjustments do not guarantee relief. The following recommendations were reported in Liam Mannix’s December 2017 article in The Age newspaper:

 

“Only one thing worked consistently: a targeted program to strengthen the muscles of the neck, shoulders and back.”

The Four Recommended Exercises | The “Bottom Line”

Think – Raise, Fly, Shrug

 

To beat the chook neck (forward neck posture) and hunched shoulders, the research team recommends four exercises. The front raise, side raise, reverse fly and shrug. Ultimately, you should aim for a 20-minute session, three times a week, over a period of at least 10 weeks.

Front Raise | With elbows slightly flexed, raise one arm at a time to shoulder height directly in front of you.

Lateral Raise | With elbows slightly flexed, lift both arms out to shoulder height.

Shrugs | While standing, let your arms hang by your side. Then, lift both shoulders as high as possible.

Reverse Flies | Sit bent over forward with back straight. Let your arms hang straight down, then raise to shoulder height.

 

Find Out More | These practical posts are the focus of our work at Beyond Ergo.

·         For additional notes on how to start these important self-care habits when working in computer-intensive work environments, read the full 4 Ways to Reduce Neck Pain article here.

·         If you would like to know more about the Beyond Ergo programs or ever want to grab a Zoom cuppa, just pop a time into my calendar.

·         Follow us on Facebook @BeyondErgo

Illustrations by Claire – clrmorrow@gmail.com

Image by stefamerpik on Freepik

References

1.           n.a. Healthy Working: MOVE. Healthy Working: MOVE 2017 June 2017 [cited 2017; Injury Prevention and Training Resource ]. Available from: http://ergonomics4kids.com/ http://www.healthyworking.com/move

2.           Bullock, M., Ergonomics in a Technological World: Implications for Occupational Health, in 25th Annual Conference of the Ergonomics Society of Australia,. 1989, Ergonomics Society of Australia,.

3.           Aaras, A., G. Horgen, and O. Ro, Work with the visual display unit: Health consequences. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction;, 2000. 12(1): p. 107–134.

 4.           Silman, A.J. and J. Newman, A review of diagnostic criteria for work related upper limb disorders (WRULD), M.S.M. Arthritis & Rheumatism Council Epidemiology Research Unit: University of Manchester, Editor. 1996, University of Manchester, Medical School: Manchester. p. 1–45.