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.