Risk factors for the onset of non-specific neck pain: a systematic review

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Jul;64(7):565-72. doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.090720. Epub 2010 May 12.


Objective: Neck pain is a common musculoskeletal disorder, but little is known about which individuals develop neck pain. This systematic review investigated factors that constitute a risk for the onset of non-specific neck pain.

Design and setting: A range of electronic databases and reference sections of relevant articles were searched to identify appropriate articles. Studies investigating risk factors for the onset of non-specific neck pain in asymptomatic populations were included. All studies were prospective with at least 1 year follow-up.

Main results: 14 independent cohort studies met the inclusion criteria for the review. Thirteen studies were assessed as high quality. Female gender, older age, high job demands, low social/work support, being an ex-smoker, a history of low back disorders and a history of neck disorders were linked to the development of non-specific neck pain.

Conclusions: Various clinical and sociodemographic risk factors were identified that have implications for occupational health and health policy. However, there was a lack of good-quality research investigating the predictive nature of many other variables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology
  • Neck Pain / etiology*
  • Occupations
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking
  • Social Support