How to Manage Neck Pain from Computer Use

February 28, 2017 in STSMPT

Did you know that up to 70% of office workers who use computers a lot will have neck pain at some point in their lives?  Each year, as many as 46% of computer users may experience neck pain! For most, some easy adjustments may fix the problem. On the other hand, there are many people who will find their neck pain to be worse. If neck pain from computer use hurts your ability to work or play, consider a physical therapy consult.


Multiple research projects have studied the risk factors involved with neck pain from computer work. Below we list some of the top protective factors proven by science. You may be able to work some of these factors into your daily routine.


  • Being physically active outside of work
  • Good, upright posture during work
  • Frequent rest breaks
  • Having different tasks you can switch between
  • Sit/stand desks
  • Document holders
  • Correct screen placement
  • Adjustable chairs


Another interesting protective factor is letting workers decide when they switch tasks. Computer workers who have the freedom to individually decide when to do what tasks enjoy a lower risk of neck pain.


Here are risk factors proven in research studies to increase the risk of neck pain for computer users. Each of these factors about doubles the chance of neck pain.


  • Female gender
  • Age 30 to 50
  • Forward head or bent neck
  • Prolonged sitting
  • Performing the same movement multiple times per minute
  • Mental tiredness


We have not yet listed the one thing that can predict future neck pain more strongly than any other risk factor. It’s going to the doctor for neck pain. People who go to the doctor for neck pain prove seven times more likely to have future neck pain compared to other computer workers. This means if your neck pain is bad enough that you are willing to visit a healthcare professional, it’s time to get serious. Your neck pain has a high chance of returning.


Advice does not seem to be enough. In research studies, even involved teaching programs called “Neck Schools” do not show convincing results. Many people cannot fully follow the advice due to out-of-balance muscles. Most computer workers with serious neck pain will need specific exercise therapy. If neck pain is bad enough to affect your work or play, we recommend a physical therapy consult and a few follow-up visits.

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