Short Exercises Can Make Office Work Less of a Pain in the Neck

Office workers who experience neck and shoulder pain may suffer from reduced productivity, higher health care costs and long-term absences from work. Researchers from Denmark suggest that encouraging short periods of exercise for office workers can help reduce neck and shoulder pain.

Lars L. Andersen, Ph.D., a researcher with the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark, said that as many as 50 percent of office workers sitting at desks and using computer experience neck and shoulder pain. Anderson and his colleagues completed a randomized controlled trial of 198 office workers with neck and shoulder pain and tenderness to palpation. They key to reducing this pain, they found, may be short periods of exercise.

“Although regular physical exercise is a cornerstone for wellness programs, adherence to comprehensive exercise remains low. So we set out to develop an exercise program that was as simple and feasible as possible,” said Anderson.

Resisting Pain

The trial utilized an elastic-tubing exercise product with handles. Participants randomly were assigned to a non-exercising control group, a 2-minute exercise group or a 12-minute exercise group. The exercise groups performed a lateral raise with the arm slightly in front of the body while using elastic tubing for resistance.

These exercises were performed 5 days per week – 10 minutes a week in the 2-minute group; 60 minutes per week in the 12-minute group – for 10 weeks. Both groups gradually increased their repetitions and level of tubing resistance.

After 10 weeks, both exercise groups significantly reduced their neck/shoulder pain and tenderness and significantly increased their strength compared to the control group. There was no significant difference between the exercise groups. Training adherence was approximately 65 percent for the exercise groups.

The researchers concluded that as little as a single set of 2-minute exercise of this type significantly can reduce pain and tenderness in office workers with neck/shoulder pain.

“These findings have implications for both employees and employers,” said Andersen. “A simple resistance exercise program performed 2 minutes a day can significantly reduce neck/shoulder pain in office workers, potentially leading to improved productivity and reduced healthcare costs.”

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