Risk factors of chronic neck pain: a prospective study among middle-aged employees

Eur J Pain. 2012 Jul;16(6):911-20. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2011.00065.x. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Objective: To study the associations of sociodemographic factors, working conditions, lifestyle and previous pain in the spine with new onset chronic neck pain (NP).

Methods: The participants were municipal employees free of chronic NP at baseline, aged 40, 45, 50, 55 or 60 years (n = 5277, 80% women). Self-reported data on occupational class, working conditions, body mass index, smoking, exercise, mental well-being, sleep problems, NP and low back pain (LBP) were obtained from baseline questionnaire surveys in 2000-2002. The question on chronic NP was repeated in a follow-up in 2007. Logistic regression analysis was used.

Results: The incidence of chronic NP was 15% in women and 9% in men. In multivariable analysis among women, acute NP [odds ratio (OR) 3.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.9-5.1], chronic LBP (1.6, 1.2-2.2), reporting current workplace bullying (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.4), earlier bullying at the present workplace (1.6, 1.2-2.0), and earlier bullying in another workplace (1.8, 1.3-2.4), frequent sleep problems (1.5, 1.2-2.0), overweight (1.2, 1.0-1.5), and obesity (1.4, 1.1-1.8) predicted chronic NP at follow-up. Men with acute NP (2.3, 1.4-3.8), chronic LBP (2.3, 1.2-4.3), manual occupational class (1.8, 1.1-3.1) and high work-related emotional exhaustion (1.9, 1.1-3.3) at baseline had an increased risk of new onset chronic NP.

Conclusions: We found potentially modifiable predictors of chronic NP among employees: workplace bullying, sleep problems, and high body mass index in women, and work-related emotional exhaustion in men. In both genders, previous acute NP and chronic LBP were predictive of chronic NP.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors