Methods: Publications between 1980 and April 2010 were systematically searched in various databases (PubMed, CINAHL Plus with full text, The Cochrane Library, Science Direct, PEDro, ProQuest, PsycNet, and Scopus). The following key words were used: neck pain, cervical pain, exercise, strengthening, stretching, endurance, office workers, visual display unit, visual display terminal, and computer users. A hand search of relevant journals was also carried out. Relevant randomized controlled trials were retrieved and assessed for methodological quality by 2 independent reviewers. The strength of the evidence was based on methodological quality and consistency of the results.
Results: Nine randomized controlled trials were included in this review, of which 6 were rated as high-quality studies. No exercise type was identified as being effective in the prevention of nonspecific neck pain in office workers. Strong evidence was found for the effectiveness of muscle strengthening and endurance exercises in treating neck pain. Moderate evidence supported the use of muscle endurance exercise in reducing disability attributed to neck pain.
Conclusion: Literature investigating the efficacy of exercise in office workers with nonspecific neck pain was heterogeneous. Within the limitations, for treatment of neck pain, either muscle strengthening or endurance exercise is recommended, whereas for reduction of pain-related disability, muscle endurance exercise is suggested. Further research is needed before any firm conclusions regarding the most effective exercise programs for office workers can be reached.
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