Sometimes you feel tied to your computer. Your work requires too many hours sitting in front of a monitor while you fail to monitor what is happening to your body. The result can be a pain in the neck… and shoulders. There are several ways to avoid this work-related inconvenience, if you can pull yourself away from the keyboard. A recent study suggests, ironically, that the best way may be to hook yourself up to another machine — a biofeedback machine.

Biofeedback is a treatment that enables people to control bodily processes that normally are not under conscious control. It uses monitors to feed back information to a person who uses trial and error to adjust physiological processes such as temperature, blood pressure or in this case, muscle tension.

Strategies for dealing with work-related problems like muscle aches are becoming more important now that nine out of 10 people use computers at work. Even as four out of 10 adults sit in front of computers for more than four hours every day, they are advised to limit screen time for their children. It’s all more than enough to develop a pain in the neck.

That’s what happened to 60 office workers before they took part in a study comparing different treatments for work-related shoulder and neck pain. One-third of them were given educational pamphlets and hot-packs, one-third followed a daily exercise plan and one-third received feedback from a biofeedback machine concerning the state of their muscles.

After six weeks, the pained workers who received active and passive treatments benefited from their treatments, but not as much as those who received biofeedback. Furthermore, the pain-relieving benefits of the biofeedback lasted for six months after treatment stopped.

Further studies should include more subjects and look at different ways to use biofeedback to relieve work-related pain. This may lead to a better understanding of how to take full advantage of biofeedback for treating and preventing computer-related problems.

The suggestion is clear enough now, however, that it might be better to learn to recognize developing muscle pains than it is to treat them after they settle in. Biofeedback lets you know when things are getting tight. Self-awareness clearly has multiple benefits at work.