Objectives: This study determined the prevalence of neck pain and its relation to occupation and occupational activities in the general population.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to 21 201 subjects aged 16-64 years, randomly selected from the patient registers of general practices in England, Scotland, and Wales, and to 993 subjects randomly selected from pay records of the armed services. Information was collected on occupation, workplace physical activities, neck pain in the past week and year, headaches, and feelings of tiredness or stress. Associations were explored by logistic regression, the resultant odds ratios being converted to prevalence ratios (PR).
Results: Among 12907 respondents, 4348 and 2528 reported neck pain in past year (1421 with pain interfering with normal activities) and week, respectively. Symptoms were the most prevalent among male construction workers [past week and year 24% and 38% (pain interfering with activities 11%), respectively], followed by nurses, armed services members, and the unemployed. Generally the age-standardized prevalence of neck pain varied little by occupation. Work with arms above the shoulders for >1 hours/day was associated with a significant excess of symptoms [PR 1.3-1.7 (women) and 1.2-1.4 (men)], but no associations existed for typing, lifting, vibratory tool use, or professional driving. Stronger neck-pain associations were found with frequent headaches (PR 2.3-2.8) and frequent tiredness or stress (PR 2.2-2.5) than with occupational activities.
Conclusions: The data provide evidence against a strong association between neck pain and the examined occupational physical activities. They suggest that psychosocial factors may be more important.