The Epidemiology of Neck Pain

, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.

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In This Article

Occupational Neck Pain

Occupational neck pain can be divided into two categories -- those patients who have had specific injuries and those in whom the onset of neck pain seems to be related to normal work activity.

Specific injuries that may occur in the workplace include motor vehicle accidents, falling from a height, and being struck on the head. In these instances, causation is not hard to determine; neck pain that begins during normal work activities, however, is more difficult to assess.

Employees in occupations which require repetitive use of the upper extremities such as machine operators, carpenters, and office workers are more likely to have neck complaints.[14] If work activity is truly the cause the of the patient's complaints then a strong relationship with the activity and the onset and persistence of the symptoms should be evident. For instance, it must be established that the symptoms began after performing the activity and the complaints improve or completely subside if that activity is eliminated. Usually the distinction between work causation and other factors is not clear because preexisting disease and activities that are not involved with work cloud the picture. In addition, there is no conclusive evidence in the medical literature that overuse results in structural damage. There is, however, a segment of the population with permanent symptoms after a period of overactivity at a specific task. In these situations, evaluation and treatment proceeds as with any other group of patients but causation usually cannot be established.

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