Musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents: Risk factors and complications

Surg Neurol Int. 2017 May 10;8:72. doi: 10.4103/sni.sni_445_16. eCollection 2017.


Background: Neck pain is a major public health concern that has been extensively studied in adults but not in children and adolescents. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explore musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents, as well as to discuss its possible risk factors and complications.

Methods: Participants were patients under 18 years of age, who had presented to the clinic (Beirut, Lebanon) in 2015, with nonspecific neck pain. They were examined and asked to evaluate and localize the pain. Neck positioning during various activities along with other complications were explored. Patients reporting pain associated with congenital or systemic diseases and fractures were excluded.

Results: Two-hundred-and-seven children and adolescents presented with nonspecific neck pain. Musculoskeletal neck pain with spasm was diagnosed in 180 patients (N = 180). Participants did not show any findings on physical examination and radiological studies, and had no comorbidities. More females (57%) than males (43%) and more adolescents (60%) than children (40%) were affected. All the 180 participants (100%) reported flawed flexion of their back and neck while studying and/or using smartphones and tablets. Eye symptoms were reported in 21% of the cases, and parents of most participants (82%) reported a change in the psychological and social behavior of their children.

Conclusions: Musculoskeletal neck pain is an important disease in children and adolescents with numerous risk factors contributing to its development. Increased stresses regarding the cervical spine may lead to cervical degeneration along with other developmental, medical, psychological, and social complications.

Keywords: Adolescents; children; neck flexion; neck pain; smartphones; text neck.