Office Pain in the Neck… and Shoulders

When people think of a neck injury, you usually picture a car accident or a sporting injury, however most neck pain or other symptoms are associated with work related posture and overuse injuries. Many people spend days on end sitting with poor postures and in uncomfortable positions in a stressful job. While you’re sitting here reading this, I want you to think about your current posture and how your neck and shoulders feel. Now do you think this is contributing to your pain, if so, you are not alone.

There are 1000’s of people working desk / office jobs that have reported similar issues. A one year study has shown over 50% of office workers report neck or shoulder pain at least once in the respective period with a reoccurrence rate of approx. 1/3. This means that either you or your colleague next to you are likely to experience neck or shoulder related pain. This pain or discomfort can have major impacts on your quality of life or productivity at work. Some symptoms that are commonly associated with neck/shoulder conditions are direct pain, pain down the shoulders and arms, headaches, pins and needles, numbness, burning sensation, dizziness, restricted movement or stiffness.

What are the causes of your neck and shoulder pain?

The long hours, stressful work conditions, poor work station setup and relative inactivity throughout the day are all factors that may contribute to your pain or discomfort. Even if we partake in some physical activity before or after work you may end up spending upwards of 20+ hr sitting or lying down in the space of 1 day. In today’s society everything has streamlined computer processes which involves less physical and dangerous working conditions however this results in increased time at your desk. This has some major implication for changes in posture and can result in prolonged neck or shoulder pain.

With regards to your posture we are designed to have correct alignment through our head, neck, shoulders through to our hips while sitting. Our upper back and neck has normal curvatures that are designed to reduce the load going through each vertebrae to alleviate the stress on the spine. However if the alignment and curvature of our spine is altered through how we sit and stare at a screen for hours this can place additional strain on the vertebrae, joints, discs, muscles and ligaments that hold us together. Commonly you will be positioned with your shoulders forward and rounded while also having your head leading forward. This position places additional loading on the ligaments and muscles to support this forward set posture.

As a result the muscles are constantly being over worked, become increasingly tighter and may begin to ache. If not treated these can create more long term issues on the surrounding structures and can result in muscle imbalances. This changes the biomechanics around your neck and shoulders and causes dysfunction with various movements that may aggravate your condition. If any injury to the joints, discs or ligaments occurs, our bodies’ natural reaction is to restrict any movement that may be deemed as harmful or painful. This protective mechanism is present to reduce your range of motion for a period to prevent further damage.

How we can help you

Our team of physiotherapists and exercise physiologists work with you to initially relieve this restricted motion and pain within your neck and shoulders. We help identify your individualised problems and work with you to correct your posture and to strengthen the relevant muscles to regain full function. We are happy to help you with anything from a tune up to help reduce the stiffness or pain that may have built up or to rehab a more serious injury or condition you may have suffered.

We can help with workplace setup to promote a pain free work environment that allows for enhanced productivity at work and to promote your health and wellbeing. Your boss will be thrilled as your performance and enjoyment at work will be improved as you don’t feel like it’s wearing you down just being there. Stand up desks are the new craze and have been proven to be beneficial in terms of changing posture from the regular slouched seating position we all fall into while sitting for long periods.

Where possible, after 20-30 minutes of sitting you should get up and move around. Positional symmetry is also a key factor we promote as we tend to be always leaning, twisting or reaching forward to one side which further exacerbates muscle imbalances. Office chairs have many adjustments and this can make your time at work a lot more relaxed, so take the time to fine-tune your set up and ensure comfort. Our team are well equipped to assess and provide you with a combination of hands on treatment and exercises to ensure you have the best chance of pain free function into the future.