Office work typically involves mildly stressful postures held for prolonged periods of time. This is why office workers experience a particularly high incidence of neck pain, sometimes reported at over 50%. Bad ergonomics at your desk can be a contributing factor, but even optimal ergonomics cannot completely prevent the stress from that prolonged office posture. However, the right exercises can help.
This is demonstrated by study recently published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers recruited 567 office workers between the ages of 18 and 55 who had lower than normal neck range of motion or lower than normal neck muscle endurance. Half the study participants were taught a daily neck exercise program designed to protect the functioning and health of the neck. One year later, the group with daily neck exercises reported an incidence of neck pain at 12.1% while the group without the exercise program reported an annual neck pain incidence rate of 26.7%. Some simple exercises cut the rate of neck pain by more than half. The exercise program used in this study consisted of muscle stretching (to stretch the short neck muscles) and endurance training (to increase endurance of the long neck muscles).
Recurring neck pain can cause loss of productivity on the job and could even lead to employees missing work in extreme cases. If you are experiencing neck pain, let physical therapy give you some stretching exercises and tips.
Sihawong R, Janwantanakul P, Jiamjarasrangsi W. Effects of an exercise programme on preventing neck pain among office workers: a 12-month cluster-randomised controlled trial. Occup Environ Med, 2014; 71: 63-70.