Neck Pain on the Rise: How to Alleviate Desk-Related Discomfort with Physiotherapy

Neck pain is a commonly seen condition that affects people who work from an office or from a home office. Men and women equally present with neck pain from working at a desk in front of a computer. Neck pain episodes and presentations have increased during the COVID19 pandemic when people spent increasing hours at their desk working from home.

Neck pain symptoms

Symptoms that often accompany neck pain are,

  • feeling of muscle tightness over the shoulders or the neck area,
  • headaches called cervicogenic headaches.
  • loss of movements in the neck,
  • difficulty finding comfortable sleeping position,
  • sometimes referred pain that travels in the arms.

Factors contributing to neck pain

Factors that can cause neck pain in office workers are one of the below or a combination of these; they include,

  • improper desk / chair set-up,
  • forward head posture when sitting at desk in front of the computer screen/s,
  • prolonged seated posture,
  • stress that is related to lifestyle or work.

These factors can increase the load on neck and shoulder muscles. Increased loads tend to result in muscle strain and pain. Forward head posture can also induce lengthening and weakness of muscles that are anterior (in front of) the neck and shortening of the muscles that are at the posterior (back of the neck) side.

A muscle imbalance will also result in increased strain and pain or feeling of muscle tightness.

Sitting in an improper chair that does not provide adequate amount of lower back support can increase the risk of slouching posture, rounded back posture and affect the alignment in spine and the neck particularly. This can contribute to pain.

Evidence shows people with neck pain could have poor sleeping patterns due to lack of deep sleep, lack of continues sleep or difficulty and pain when finding a comfortable position to sleep. Lack of an adequate 6-7 hours of sleep-in longer term has shown to increase stress, pain, anxiety/depression and poor performance and cognition.

How can my Physiotherapist help when I have neck pain?

Physiotherapists are trained professionals in assessment and diagnosis of neck pain, functional movements patterns and postures that could be causing neck pain. 

A physiotherapist can assist by providing appropriate assessment and diagnosis of the neck pain. They can then provide adequate treatment and rehab exercises that can help correct the muscle imbalance and reduce pain.

Techniques and treatment strategies that physiotherapists may use to manage neck pain are (not limited to),

  • manual therapy,
  • soft tissue massage,
  • dry needling,
  • exercises to strengthen the weaker deep neck flexors, scapular muscles,
  • exercises to lengthen the cervical spine extensor muscles, pectoral muscles,
  • education about proper posture,
  • education about ergonomics of chair and desk set-up, movement and microbreaks that are required during work hours,
  • taping techniques

Evidence suggests that there is also potential benefit of using a sit-stand desk. From a physiotherapist’s perspective we believe that minimizing prolonged sitting postures and movements that happen from sit to stand / stand to sit help in

  • muscle tension and tightness
  • distribute the load that goes through postural muscles
  • improve blood supply to muscles.

So, if a sit-stand desk means that you spend more time transitioning between sitting and standing, or if more standing time increases how much you walk around the office or home office, then it is of great benefit in preventing neck pain and strains (and potentially wider health risks too).

If you have neck pain or strain that is affecting you when working at a desk at the office or home office, contact us at Wyndham Physio and Rehabilitation to book an appointment with our physiotherapist.

Written by:
Pallavi Deshmukh 

APA Titled Sports & MSK Physiotherapist, MACP

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