Why Desk Work Is a Pain In The Neck…Shoulders, or Arms

November 30, 2022

The Pains of Modern Convenience

I work sitting at a desk. Why am I experiencing pain in the neck, shoulders, or arms?

Modern conveniences such as TVs, Computers, and Cell Phones have enabled us to be more efficient at the expense of our need to move. As an example, in the past, we needed to move our bodies more to complete basic everyday tasks. Many may remember the need to rise from the couch to change the channel on the TV. Along came the remote control which allowed us to change channels at the push of a button. We no longer need to get our entire body up from the couch but rather just use our arms, hand, and fingers. Now with the invention of voice commands, we can just speak and our TV will easily change channels, without our bodies having to move at all.

While our society experiences increased convenience in daily tasks and activities, what we don’t often realize is the detrimental toll that moving less takes on our bodies. When a desk worker spends many hours of the day sitting while using devices such as cell phones and computers, there is a propensity to develop rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. Hours of isometric muscle contraction to maintain the body’s position leads muscles to tighten and shorten, which may affect the front/back curvature of our neck. Muscles that work hard to hold up our head may fatigue and develop tight bands or trigger points which in turn may become painful. Imbalances may lead to abnormal compression of the vertebrae, strained joints, ligaments, and tendons, and even nerve compression along with abnormal mechanics of the neck, shoulders, and arms.1 Eventually the faulty posture, muscle fatigue from supporting the weight of the head, and resulting micro-trauma may lead to symptoms including muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, pain in the neck, upper or mid back pain, chest discomfort, and possibly tingling and numbness in the arms and hands.2,4

I Have Pain In The Neck, Now What?

If you are wondering whether sitting for many hours per day or your posture is contributing to your pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm you may benefit from a consultation with a Physical Therapist to perform an examination to identify the specific impairments you are experiencing and develop a strategy to address them. Through a combination of orthopedic manual therapy techniques including a myofascial release for soft tissue and joint restrictions, exercises to strengthen the weakened muscles, and education for sitting and standing with a more neutral posture, you have the possibility to address your neck, shoulder, and arm pain without medication or surgery.3,5

Here at Spruce Health Group we offer Orthopedic Physical Therapy as well as a suite of other services that may benefit your health.

We invite you to contact us today for a consultation where we can discuss your needs and how our highly skilled clinicians can help you. Contact us to schedule an appointment at the location nearest to you.


  1. Burt HA, Effects of faulty posture; President’s Address. Proc R Soc Med. 1950; 43(3):187–194. Accessed 26 February 2019.
  2. Centralcity Health professionals FHP Available from: https://www.centralcityphysio.com.au/forward-head-posture/
  3. Fathollahnejad K, Letafatkar A, Hadadnezhad M. The effect of manual therapy and stabilizing exercises on forward head and rounded shoulder postures: a six-week intervention with a one-month follow-up study. BMC musculoskeletal disorders. 2019 Dec 1;20(1):86.Available from: https://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12891-019-2438-y
  4. Mahmoud NF, Hassan KA, Abdelmajeed SF, Moustafa IM, Silva AG. The relationship between forward head posture and neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine. 2019 Dec;12(4):562-77.y
  5. Im B, Kim Y, Chung Y, Hwang S. Effects of scapular stabilization exercise on neck posture and muscle activation in individuals with neck pain and forward head posture. Journal of physical therapy science. 2015;28(3):951-5.
Categories: Physical Therapy