Neck Pain – Stretch or Strengthen?
What should we be emphasizing?
We are constantly telling computer users to change positions, move around, walk to the copier, stand when talking on the phone and stretch when you have a minute. We have reminders on our phone, software and apps that remind us to do all of these things. I make it a habit to spend time during an ergonomic assessment to reinforce the same strategies and ‘lecture’ clients about routines for alternating positions. But until recently, one thing I haven’t been doing on a regular basis is ask about a fitness or strengthening program. After attending seminars and reading nerdy research articles I’m seeing that we seem to be putting more emphasis on moving around and stretching, but a basic strengthening program can go a long way to help reduce pain and allow the muscles to tolerate a full day of computer work.
How important is strengthening?
A great example of how important strengthening can be is the research study listed above. The researchers compared three different interventions for people with neck and shoulder pain. As you can see, the strengthening group showed the most improvement for neck and shoulder pain compared with others who did a general fitness program or received ergonomic education. The strengthening group were also better even 10 weeks after the program! And the exercises were not complicated, these were basic dumbbell movements like lateral raises (flyes), biceps curls or rows. The key with the exercises was doing them the right way and and progressing the weight every week.
What does this mean?
Should we ignore the advice about moving around and stretching? Not at all. But the research is suggesting that a strengthening program should be at the forefront of your health routine and not just a supplement to stretching.