For many workers, neck pain lasts at least a year

In brief

  • Neck pain is a persistent and recurring problem in workers. About 60 per cent of workers who experienced neck pain reported having it one year later.
  • Few factors can predict how workers recover from neck pain, but having an influence on how work is done and being physically active can be helpful in recovery.

Published: January 2008

Why was this study done?

Neck pain is a significant problem in workers, but its frequency varies across different professions. Neck pain is more common in hospital and office workers, for instance. This study aimed to understand how workers recover from neck pain and which factors could help them recover from neck pain more quickly.

How was the study done?

Researchers from the Neck Pain Task Force reviewed studies published between 1980 and 2006 on neck pain and related illnesses. Fourteen studies were included in the review for this best evidence synthesis on workers and neck pain.

What did the researchers find?

About 60 per cent of workers who experienced neck pain reported having it one year later. Blue-collar workers were six times more likely than white-collar workers to take more than three days of sick leave for neck pain. However, this may reflect different job demands than actual pain recovery. There was little evidence on the influence of specific workplace or physical job demands on recovery from neck pain. However, people who did general exercise were more likely to experience improvements in neck pain. The most effective types and amount of exercise are still unknown.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

One strength was that this study looked at the neck pain research over a 26-year time span. However, the definition of neck pain varied greatly between studies, and many studies did not provide clinical information that may have been important.