Why work shouldn’t be a 'pain in the neck'

Andrew Lao 7 August, 2020

You’re sitting at the desk in the office, working at that project you put off for so long. As you hit your stride with that perfect idea, ‘it’ hits you. Neck pain, for no real reason. “Non-specific neck pain”, the kind that has no real medical cause behind it, is a global health problem that affects all workers, with special emphasis on workers who have a more computer or desk-based role. In a climate where more of us are working from home and having to take on more desk-based projects, it’s important to understand non-specific neck pain & what can be done to assist.


Who is affected:
- More than half of workers in Australia reported experiencing neck pain over a 1 year study
- Internationally a frequency of 45-63%
- Computer workers are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop chronic neck pain than others


Impacts of neck pain:
- Decreases health-related quality of life
- Major cause of lost days at work
- Decrease in productivity
- Contributes to workers’ compensation claims and absenteeism at work
- Accounts for 20% of the total 34 billion dollars spent on chronic pain in Australia

The individual with neck pain can experience an immense amount of pain and discomfort, it also causes a large burden on the workforce and overall health care system. 

What can I do?  Exercise! 
Research via a systematic review, looked at all studies conducted on non-specific neck pain. It found that exercises aimed at strengthening neck, shoulder, and upper limb muscles had the best effect with reducing pain and improving quality of life. This doesn’t mean we need to be lifting heavy weights from our head, but an exercise such as lifting your neck whilst lying down is enough to get the muscles stronger. Getting in touch with a physiotherapist can help you initiate an appropriate strengthening program and reduce the risk of injury. 

Workplaces, in particular, have a great opportunity to implement this simple strategy to their workers, which could include:
- Health challenges
- Exercise classes
- Personal training
- Team based physical events
- Onsite physiotherapy

By taking the opportunity to invest in employees and not see them as a pain in the neck when things go wrong, businesses can aim to create a culture where an individual’s overall well being comes first. Employ Health has partnered with companies in the journey of improving the quality of life for workers and reducing the overall health and safety costs to business with great success. 

So be that business that everyone talks about and take the next step with strengthening not only your muscles, but also your workplace culture. 



Louw, S., Makwela, S., Manas, L., Meyer, L., Terblanche, D. & Brink, Y., 2017, ‘Effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis’, South African Journal of Physiotherapy 73(1), a392. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp. v73i1.392 

Johnston V. (2016). Consequences and management of neck pain by female office workers: results of a survey and clinical assessment. Archives of physiotherapy6, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40945-016-0023-3