Most people who work at a desk are familiar with the aching sensation that arises in your neck, back, and shoulders after a few hours of computer work. As you expose your body to the stresses of work day after day, those initial symptoms can turn into persistent pain and diminished function.
Office workers frequently develop myofascial trigger points, or hyperirritable nodules of pain and sensitivity located in a taut band of muscle fibers. Trigger points impair muscle function, restrict range of motion, and cause pain in the surrounding muscles. Left untreated, these trigger points may cause chronic pain and ongoing disability.
Trigger point therapy is a treatment commonly employed by chiropractors, massage therapists, and other manual therapists. While trigger point therapy has been shown to relieve a number of musculoskeletal symptoms and headache, few studies have examined the effects of a specific technique called ischemic compression for office workers with neck and shoulder pain.
Ischemic compression, sometimes referred to as trigger point pressure release, involves the application of gentle pressure directly on a trigger point. The practitioner gradually increases pressure on the trigger point to release tension and increase blood flow in the affected area.
To test the effects of the treatment on office workers, researchers tracked the progress of 19 workers with chronic mild shoulder and neck pain. On average, patients had been working full-time for 13 years at their desk jobs. They had suffered from at least 30 days of neck and shoulder pain during the previous year.
After four weeks of ischemic compression, the office workers had significantly reduced pain as well as better muscle strength, pressure pain sensitivity, and mobility. These improvements lasted at the 6-month follow up, when they were found to have further decreases in pain.
Cagnie B, et al. Effect of ischemic compression on trigger points in the neck and shoulder muscles in office workers: a cohort study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2013; doi 10.1016/j.jmpt.2013.07.001.