Risk factors for non-specific neck pain in young adults. A systematic review

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2020 Jun 9;21(1):366. doi: 10.1186/s12891-020-03379-y.


Background: Young adulthood is a sensitive period of life where development of musculoskeletal neck pain may be established and impact future health. The objective of this systematic review was to investigate risk factors for non-specific neck pain in young adults.

Methods: Systematic searches were conducted in six databases in September 2019. Prospective cohorts and registry studies including participants in whom the risk factor or the outcome (neck pain) was registered in the ages 18-29 years old were included. The Quality in Prognosis Studies tool was used for quality assessment. A modification of the Grading of Recommendations Assessments, Development and Evaluation was used to assess the overall quality of the evidence. Potential risk factors investigated in more than one study were summarised.

Results: Searches yielded 4527 articles, of which six matched the eligibility criteria. Fifty-six potential risk factors were investigated in the six studies, covering a broad range of domains. Five risk factors were investigated in more than one study (female sex, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, duration of computer use and perceived stress). Physical activity and BMI showed no association with neck pain, and inconsistent results were found for female sex, duration of daily computer use and perceived stress. Risk of bias was moderate or high in all studies, and the overall quality of evidence was very low.

Conclusion: The studies included many potential risk factors, but none of them showed consistent associations with neck pain. There is a paucity of high-quality studies investigating risk factors for neck pain in young adults.

Keywords: Neck pain; Risk factors; Systematic review; Young adult.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Neck Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult