Muscle Strengthening Helps Decrease Neck Pain

Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems that afflicts office worker. And a new review found a clear evidence that neck and shoulder muscle strengthening decreases neck pain.

Researchers from University of Queensland with colleagues from Denmark, reviewed the scientific evidence for workplace-based interventions for office workers with neck pain. The authors included 27 Randomized Controlled trials in their analysis. The factors considered included: exercise, stretching, regular screen breaks, and ergonomic adjustment. The study was published in the journal Physical Therapy.

The review concluded that

  • Ergonomic interventions did not have a large effect on relieving neck pain.
  • Stretching alone was also not effective.
  • General fitness training had a small benefit.
  • The researchers found that the only intervention to clearly improve neck pain that was supported by the evidence in these studies was targeted neck and shoulder musculature strengthening exercise.

It needs to be noted that the study found “ergonomic interventions were supported by low-quality evidence” which does not mean that it does not have an effect. Rather, the validity of the evidence is in question. It should also be noted that other forms of manual and movement therapies were not considered.

Note by Joseph Muscolino

Large-scale “meta studies” such as these have value for therapists and physicians, but are often non-specific in their application, especially when it comes to determining what the best treatment approach is for any one specific patient/client. The best proactive / rehabilitative / treatment approach for any individual patient/client is always based on a thorough and accurate diagnosis/assessment of the mechanism of that person’s pain. Treatment is oriented at the mechanism of pain, not the symptom of pain itself.

Further, as stated above, many possible approaches such as other manual and movement therapy treatments were not considered in this meta study.

Having said this, strengthening musculature is almost always in the long-term benefit for most every musculoskeletal (neuro-myo-fascio-skeletal) condition. As is improving flexibility of soft tissues and improving neural/motor control of postural and movement patterns.