Neck pain is the second most common reason patients seek chiropractic care, and it’s particularly a problem with office workers. One study estimated that neck pain affects 42-69% of those who work in office environments. Many such individuals will experience recurring episodes of neck pain, and at least one in six may develop chronic, ongoing neck pain. While chiropractic offers a safe and effective way to manage neck pain, are there any steps an office worker can take to reduce the risk for neck pain in the first place?
According to one study, taking a daily walk may be an effective neck pain prevention strategy. In the study, which included 387 office workers without spinal symptoms in the previous three months, researchers asked participants to wear a pedometer and note any spinal pain symptoms over the next year.
Of the 367 participants who completed the study, 16% reported the onset of neck pain. The results showed that for every 1,000 steps a participant averaged each day, their risk for neck pain fell by 14%. The authors concluded that increasing daily walking steps is protective for the onset of neck pain in those who work sedentary jobs, and managers should formulate and test strategies to encourage walking to reduce the incidence of neck pain among employees.
What about other forms of exercise? A meta-analysis of data from two randomized control trials that included over 500 participants showed moderate-quality evidence that participating in a workplace exercise program can reduce the risk for developing a new episode of neck pain by up to 68%. In the first trial, participants performed stretching and endurance training twice a day at work and twice a day at home. The second trial involved a combination of strength, stabilization, aerobic, and body awareness exercises that included health information, ergonomic training, and stress management training three times a week for one hour over a nine-month time frame.
While it’s not possible to completely avoid a condition like neck pain, the evidence suggests that regularly engaging in physical activity may substantially lower the risk. For those who do develop neck pain, it’s important to seek chiropractic care as soon as possible, which may lead to a faster resolution of symptoms and reduce the risk for both neck pain recurrence and chronic neck pain.