Does computer time take its toll on your neck and shoulders? A new study shows that office workers can find relief from chronic pain through strength training.

The study included 42 women who had been diagnosed with trapezius myalgia, or chronic pain in the trapezius. This muscle forms a triangle between the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and is a common source of neck and shoulder pain in office workers. Each of the women in the study did physically repetitive work in an office setting.

The women were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • The first group performed strength training exercises for 20 minutes, three times a week. Each session included three out of five high-intensity exercises designed specifically for the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • The second group did leg bicycling for 20 minutes, three times a week. They used stationary bicycles, and allowed their arms to hang relaxed at their sides.
  • The third group were given counseling on “workplace ergonomics, diet, health, relaxation, and stress management for a total of (one hour) per week but were not offered any physical training.”

Researchers took detailed measurements of the women’s muscle strength at the beginning and end of the study, and recorded their levels of neck pain on a weekly basis.

Though all of the women continued their office work throughout the trial period, the women who performed strength exercises reported a 79% reduction in the intensity of their pain. The women in the second and third groups reported no significant pain relief.

This study offers strength training as another non-invasive tool for chiropractors, and provides hope for patients who find computer work an inescapable part of daily life.


Andersen LL, Andersen JL, Suetta C, Kjaer M, Søgaard K, Sjøgaard G. Effect of contrasting physical exercise interventions on rapid force capacity of chronically painful muscles.J Appl Physiol. 2009 Nov;107(5):1413-9. Epub 2009 Sep 17.