Study design: Best evidence synthesis.
Objective: To undertake a best evidence synthesis of the published evidence on the burden and determinants of neck pain and its associated disorders in the general population.
Summary of background data: The evidence on burden and determinants of neck has not previously been summarized.
Methods: The Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders performed a systematic search and critical review of literature published between 1980 and 2006 to assemble the best evidence on neck pain. Studies meeting criteria for scientific validity were included in a best evidence synthesis.
Results: We identified 469 studies on burden and determinants of neck pain, and judged 249 to be scientifically admissible; 101 articles related to the burden and determinants of neck pain in the general population. Incidence ranged from 0.055 per 1000 person years (disc herniation with radiculopathy) to 213 per 1000 persons (self-reported neck pain). Incidence of neck injuries during competitive sports ranged from 0.02 to 21 per 1000 exposures. The 12-month prevalence of pain typically ranged between 30% and 50%; the 12-month prevalence of activity-limiting pain was 1.7% to 11.5%. Neck pain was more prevalent among women and prevalence peaked in middle age. Risk factors for neck pain included genetics, poor psychological health, and exposure to tobacco. Disc degeneration was not identified as a risk factor. The use of sporting gear (helmets, face shields) to prevent other types of injury was not associated with increased neck injuries in bicycling, hockey, or skiing.
Conclusion: Neck pain is common. Nonmodifiable risk factors for neck pain included age, gender, and genetics. Modifiable factors included smoking, exposure to tobacco, and psychological health. Disc degeneration was not identified as a risk factor. Future research should concentrate on longitudinal designs exploring preventive strategies and modifiable risk factors for neck pain.