Female workers with previous complaints at highest risk for neck pain
Spending long periods of time using a computer keyboard is not necessarily a risk factor for neck pain. Neither is poor perception of computer placement and low social support, says a new report. The only strong evidence for the onset of neck pain among office workers was being female and having previous neck pain.
The report can help identify office workers most at risk for non-specific neck pain and enhance resource allocation to those most likely to benefit from it, according to the authors.
The study, Office workers' risk factors for the development of non-specific neck pain: A systematic review of prospective cohort studies, was published in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine.
Non-specific neck pain is defined as neck pain without any specific systematic disease detected as the underlying cause. It causes considerable personal suffering, leading to disability and impaired quality of work and life, the researchers said. Office workers are among those with the highest frequency of neck pain with between 42 and 69 percent experiencing it in the preceding 12 months.
Researchers undertook extensive reviews of several studies conducted over a period of 30 years to gain insights into risk factors for the development of neck pain in office workers. Forty-seven individual, work-related physical and work-related psychosocial factors were included.
The researchers found strong evidence that female gender and previous history of neck complaints are predictors of the onset of neck pain. They also found strong evidence that high keyboard usage time, poor perception of computer placement, and low social support have no predictive value for the onset of neck pain.
In addition, the findings dispute several commonly accepted beliefs about the risk factors for neck pain. Among their findings were:
- Moderate evidence that high physical leisure activity and high psychosocial stress have no predictive value for the onset of neck pain.
- Limited evidence that neck pain may be associated with: an accident, irregular head and body posture, duration of employment in the same job, poor computer skills (for males only), distance of the keyboard from the edge of the table, high task difficulty, low influence at work (females only), and high muscular tension.
- Limited evidence that the following are not predictors of neck pain: high or low body mass index, chronic diseases, smoking, cervical flexion-extension or lateral flexion mobility, arm support during mouse and keyboard use, poor perception of office equipment position, poor physical work environment, awkward body posture, high average mouse activity, high average keyboard activity, high mouse or keyboard speed, high work flow, high physical exposure, sitting durations before breaks, poor social network, nonadjustable chair and desk, low decision authority, low skills discretion, low control and Type A behavior.
The studies conflicted on the evidence for factors such as age, daily computer use, high mouse usage time, screen height above eye level, high job strain, and high demand.
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July 19, 2012
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