Risk Factors for Developing Neck Pain

Neck pain is the most common complaint seen at our clinic. This is not surprising due to the fact that City workers most often sit at their desks for long periods of time in constrained postures. The work environment in the City can be rather stressful and coupled with the amount of “static” work that the neck and shoulder muscles carry out this should be of no surprise to anyone. In other areas of the country lower back complaints are more common. I will review some of the highlights of the recent literature in order to point out what the science of neck pain is demonstrating regarding risk factors associated with neck pain.

In a review of all of the literature published regarding psychosocial factors and the risk of developing neck pain, Geertje et al  found that there was evidence regarding the development of neck pain for individuals with high quantitative job demands (such as repetitive tasks), low social co-worker support, low job satisfaction, conflicts at work, and so forth. Many of these factors are not unknown to City workers.

In another systematic review, the authors found evidence for a positive relationship between neck pain and the duration of sitting and twisting or bending of the trunk. Forward bending of the neck, consistent arm force, arm posture, duration of sitting, twisting or bending of the trunk, hand-arm vibration, and workplace design were all found to be of significance.

In a large scientific study involving 7,669 adults who were followed for a year in South Manchester, results showed that females were more likely to develop neck pain than males. Age differences had no significance. Almost 20% of subjects – who were not experiencing neck pain at the beginning of the study – developed pain during the course of the year. This clearly illustrates how common neck pain really is. Subjects who had experienced neck pain previously were far more likely to develop neck pain once again during the follow-up 12-month period. Other factors that were identified included number of children, poor self-assessed health, poor psychological status and a past history of low back pain. Prior trauma to the neck region was also identified as a risk factor.

It is clear, therefore, that there are both physical and medical, as well as psychosocial (stress etc.) factors that can contribute to the development of neck pain. Neck pain is usually benign and self-limiting. If, however, it persists, it should be examined by a medical professional in order to rule out any underlying disease and to provide a treatment strategy in order to address it in the most effective and time efficient manner. At our clinic we use a comprehensive approach employing relevant health professionals from the uniquely broad range of specialist at our clinic.

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