Workstation Setup: How to Reduce Your Chance of Neck Pain Developing

Key Points Related Workstation Setup:

1. Jobs requiring the use of a computer or video display terminal can result in awkward and sustained postures which has been demonstrated as causes of work-related neck and shoulder pain (1).

2. Various studies have shown that those working with a computer experience neck and shoulder pain, with an incidence rate as high as 70% and 54% respectively (2, 3, 4, 5).

3. Previous research has shown a significant reduction in individual insurance claim costs among a group from an average of $15,141 to an average of $1,553 after ergonomic intervention was implemented (6).

4. There is inconsistency in research studies to demonstrate the benefit of a mouse based on neutral posture, arm support to reduce neck and shoulder region pain (7).

5. Supplementary breaks (e.g. 4 x 5 minute breaks in addition to conventional breaks) may reduce neck and arm discomfort among data entry workers (7). However, current available research is limited when investigating interventions aiming to increase standing or walking time to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms (13).

6. Neck/shoulder specific strengthening exercises have been shown to be effective in reducing neck pain intensity in office workers (8). Limited research suggests workstation adjustments may be effective in office workers that are symptomatic (8).

What About Sit-Stand Desks?

Physiotherapist’s are often asked about whether sit-stand desks can be helpful to reduce neck and shoulder symptoms.

1. Those who sit from 8 to 11 hours per day have a 15% increase in mortality rate in the next 3 years compared to those who sit for less than 4 hours per day (9).

2. A study found that the implementation of sit-stand desks decreased time spent sitting at work by 73 minutes per workday and increased standing time at work by 65 minutes per workday (10).

3. Another study comparing a group who transitioned to sit-stand desk (increasing their standing between 73 to 96 minutes per workday) time to those who continued at their desk seated showed similar levels of productivity (11). This suggests that a sit-stand desk does not decrease the worker’s ability to be productive at work

4. A review of all the studies investigating the effects of increased standing time related to pain and discomfort showed a significant effect for reducing lower back symptoms however research is limited to indicate it’s effect on neck and shoulder pain. Interestingly, some studies found lower limb pain (hips to feet) was increased related to increased standing time (9).

5. Therefore increasing standing time may be beneficial on improving our health in reducing conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (12) and reducing lower back pain however research is unclear on it’s effects on reducing neck and shoulder pain.



1. Bernard, B. P., & Putz-Anderson, V. (1997). Musculoskeletal disorders and workplace factors; a critical review of epidemiologic evidence for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, upper extremity, and low back.

2. Marcus, M., & Gerr, F. (1996). Upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms among female office workers: associations with video display terminal use and occupational psychosocial stressors. American journal of industrial medicine29(2), 161-170.

3. Korhonen, T., Ketola, R., Toivonen, R., Luukkonen, R., Häkkänen, M., & Viikari-Juntura, E. (2003). Work related and individual predictors for incident neck pain among office employees working with video display units. Occupational and environmental medicine60(7), 475-482.

4. Sillanpää, J., Huikko, S., Nyberg, M., Kivi, P., Laippala, P., & Uitti, J. (2003). Effect of work with visual display units on musculo‐skeletal disorders in the office environment. Occupational medicine53(7), 443-451.

5. Jensen, C., Borg, V., Finsen, L., Hansen, K., Juul-Kristensen, B., & Christensen, H. (1998). Job demands, muscle activity and musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to work with the computer mouse. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 418-424.

6. Lewis, R. J., Krawiec, M., Confer, E., Agopsowicz, D., & Crandall, E. (2002). Musculoskeletal disorder worker compensation costs and injuries before and after an office ergonomics program. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics29(2), 95-99.

7. Hoe VCW, Urquhart DM, Kelsall HL, Zamri EN, Sim MR. Ergonomic interventions for preventing work-related musculoskeletaldisorders of the upper limb and neck among office workers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 10

8. Chen, X., Coombes, B., Sjøgaard, G., Jun, D., O’Leary, S., & Johnston, V. (2018). Workplace-Based Interventions for Neck Pain in Office Workers: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Physical Therapy, 98(1), 40-62.

9.  Chambers, A., Robertson, M., & Baker, N. (2019). The effect of sit-stand desks on office worker behavioral and health outcomes: A scoping review. Applied Ergonomics, 78, 37-53.

10. Chau, J., Daley, M., Dunn, S., Srinivasan, A., Do, A., Bauman, A., & Van Der Ploeg, H. (2014). The effectiveness of sit-stand workstations for changing office workers’ sitting time: Results from the Stand@Work randomized controlled trial pilot. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1), 127.

11. Chau, J., Sukala, W., Fedel, K., Do, A., Engelen, L., Kingham, M., . . . Bauman, A. (2016). More standing and just as productive: Effects of a sit-stand desk intervention on call center workers’ sitting, standing, and productivity at work in the Opt to Stand pilot study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 3, 68-74.

12. Dunstan, D., Wiesner, G., Eakin, E., Neuhaus, M., Owen, N., Lamontagne, A., . . . Healy, G. (2013). Reducing office workers’ sitting time: Rationale and study design for the Stand Up Victoria cluster randomized trial. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1057.

13. Parry, S., Coenen, P., Shrestha, N., O’Sullivan, P., Maher, C., & Straker, L. (2019). Workplace interventions for increasing standing or walking for decreasing musculoskeletal symptoms in sedentary workers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2019(11), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11/19/2019.

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