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  • Writer's pictureDave the physio


Have you ever sat at your desk for a while and started to notice that your neck and shoulders get achey and sore? Well, you're not alone my friend.

According to research, neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability, with an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30%. Most episodes of acute neck pain will resolve with or without treatment, but nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of pain or frequent occurrences.

Why you get neck pain?

One of the main factors in neck and shoulder pain relate to stiffness through the spine. Whilst the length of time you sit doesn't directly correlate to the amount of pain you may have, the length of time you remain stationary does.

What do I mean by this you ask?

Take person 1.

He has a desk job, has to sit behind a computer for 9 hours a day, and also has an upcoming deadline due by the end of the day. He remains fixated on his computer and as a result he sustains one particular posture the entire time.

About 30 minutes later he starts to notice some stiffness in his upper back and shoulders develop but he continues to work at his computer. An hour passes and he's still sitting in the same position. The stiffness in his upper back now has creeped up into his neck and is now giving him a slight headache.

He stays like this for another 7 hours and as soon as he gets up he notices he has a migraine and severe neck pain.

Take person 2.

He also has a desk job, has to sit behind a computer for 9 hours a day, and also has an upcoming deadline due by the end of the day. He owns a laptop as well as a a wireless keyboard and mouse. He starts off the day working in the dining room elevating his laptop so it's in line with his eyes.

About 30 minutes later he notices some stiffness in his upper back and shoulders develop, so he decides to get up and do some work on the couch. An hour passes and he instinctively begins to fidget whilst he works and begins to do some light stretches for his back and neck.

He does this for another 5 hours, constantly changing his sitting posture and environment and by the time he gets up, it's like every other day to him.

In the above scenarios both people had to sit behind a computer for 9 hours, however person 1 remained stationary whilst person 2 constantly moved. This just highlights that the amount of time you sit doesn't cause pain, but the amount of time you remain fixed in ONE position does.

Here are some exercises that can help you the next time you're experiencing some neck pain

What to do

Exercise 1: Neck stretches

Place your hand onto your head and gentle pull away until you feel a stretch in the neck muscles and upper trap muscles. Repeat as required and hold each stretch for approximately 10 seconds.

Exercise 2: Thoracic spine stretches

Interlace your fingers and place it around the back of your skull. Lift your chest up to the ceiling and feel a stretch develop through the back of your shoulders and your chest. Repeat as required and move the stretch around for approximately 1 min.

Exercise 3: Low row

Place a theraband around your foot or stationary object. Begin to pull your hands to the bottom of your ribs ensuring you feel the tension develop through your lats (right next to your armpits), rear delts, and lower traps.

If you're still experiencing neck pain, have a chat to one of our lovely physios here and see how else we can help.



Cohen SP. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Feb;90(2):284-99. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.09.008. PMID: 25659245.

Hoy DG, Protani M, De R, Buchbinder R. The epidemiology of neck pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Dec;24(6):783-92. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2011.01.019. PMID: 21665126.

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