Study examines use of treadmill workstations to reduce neck, shoulder muscle pain

A kinesiology researcher is studying the use of treadmill workstations to reduce neck and shoulder muscle pain in office workers, according to a press release from McGill University.

Julie Côté, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University, is looking for ways to reduce or prevent muscular and skeletal stresses and pains for office workers.

“Even though office workers may not naturally see it that way, their body is basically their work instrument, just as it is for an athlete,” Côté said in the release. “It can get injured in similar ways and for similar reasons: overuse of certain muscles.”

Côté, a former serious middle-distance runner, wanted to examine the cause of neck and shoulder pain, which will affect one in 10 office workers at some point, according to the release. Côté’s current experiments focus on the use of treadmill workstations.

“These workstations may be good for getting people moving and losing weight, but no one has looked into how this kind of posture affects the muscles in the neck, shoulders and lower back,” Côté said.

Experiment participants worked to complete a 90-minute typing task while walking or sitting as Côté and her fellow researchers measured muscle activity in the neck, shoulders, forearms, wrists and lower back. The researchers discovered lower but more variable neck and shoulder muscle activity — and thus, less discomfort — when subjects were walking compared with sitting. This showed treadmill work stations are potentially helpful in reducing the neck and shoulder muscle pain associated with computer work, according to the release.

“Whether you are a computer worker or a middle-distance runner, injuries happen when you tense a particular muscle or group of muscles for too long, and the blood cannot flow into the region as it should and regenerate the muscles. Bodies are made to move,” Côté said.

She advises office workers to focus on minor movements and adjustments of position every few minutes to avoid muscle pain.


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