Effects of intermittent stretching exercises at work on musculoskeletal pain associated with the use of a personal computer and the influence of media on outcomes

Work. 2010;36(1):27-37. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2010-1004.


Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of regular stretching exercises on pain associated with working at a computer workstation, and to ascertain whether the type of media used for exercise instruction had an effect on outcomes.

Participants: Sixty-eight volunteers were divided into three equivalent groups. All of the subjects worked at computers for prolonged periods of time and reported that their pain had been a source of distress for at least three weeks prior to the intake evaluation.

Methods: A pretest-posttest-control group design with cluster randomization was used to evaluate the effect of a stretching program on pain. Thirty-six different stretches were performed by the subjects for 15-17 work days. Two intervention groups were directed to stretch once every six minutes. One group (n=22) was reminded to stretch via a computer program, the second group (n=23) by using a hard copy version of the stretches with pictures and written instructions, and a third group received no intervention.

Results: ANOVA analysis found a significant reduction in pain of 72% (p < 0.001) for the computer-generated stretching program, and of 64% (p < 0.001) using the hardcopy version of the intervention. The control group had an increase in pain of 1%.

Conclusions: Both software and hard copy stretching interventions contributed to a decrease in pain without making any changes to workstation ergonomics and there was no significant statistical difference in the outcomes of either intervention. The subjective evaluation of pain using both visual analog scales and a newly created "pain spot" assessment technique yielded similar results.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Computers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcomputers
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises / methods*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Neck Pain / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Risk Factors
  • Software*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Workplace
  • Young Adult