The authors’ objective in this study was to evaluate the effects of an exercise programme focusing on muscle stretching and endurance training on the 12-month incidence of neck pain in office workers. They conducted a 12-month prospective cluster-randomised controlled trial in healthy office workers with lower-than-normal neck flexion movement or neck flexor endurance. Participants were recruited from 12 large-scale enterprises. In all, 567 healthy office workers were randomly assigned at the cluster level into either intervention (n=285) or control (n=282) groups. Participants in the intervention group received an exercise programme that consisted of daily stretching exercise and muscle endurance training twice weekly. Individuals in the control group received no intervention. Their primary outcome measure was the 12-month incidence of neck pain, and the secondary outcome measures were pain intensity, disability level, and quality of life and health status. They performed analyses using the Cox proportional hazard models. Over the 12-month follow-up, 12.1% of individuals in the intervention group and 26.7% in the control group developed incident neck pain. Hazard rate ratios showed a protective effect of the exercise programme for neck pain (HR=0.45, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.71) after adjusting for biopsychosocial factors. They did not find any significant difference in pain intensity, disability and quality of life and health status between those who reported incident neck pain in the intervention and control groups.
Their study found that an exercise programme lowered the occurrence of incident neck pain and increased neck flexion movement for individuals with lower-than-normal neck flexion movement.