We have all experienced it at some point in our life.
For most of us, it consists of isolated acute episodes. Pain management is then pretty straightforward. Some use painkillers, other prefer booking a massage or a couple of sessions with their physiotherapist or osteopath.
But for some of our friends or colleagues, neck pain becomes chronic (pain on a regular basis for at least 3 consecutive months). We can often hear them complaining about how much it impacts their every day life.
Note that this article will be divided in two parts. This first part will focus on definition, causes and cost of neck pain at work. Second part will give you practical solutions and prevention advices.
Neck pain: the impact of your workplace
There are many factors that come into play when we think about neck pain.
Bad posture, uncomfortable sleeping position, wrong sport technique : they all impact our well-being. But one of the things that keeps surprising me since I arrived in Hong Kong, is the amount of patients complaining about their neck. If I have to compare to my former osteopathic clinic back in Belgium, I would say that neck pain is Hong Kong equivalent of low back pain in Brussels.
So I tried to figure out if there was a reason for that.
After reviewing my patients files, and checking their background, the answer was obvious: office work. Or at least, spending several hours in front of a computer, every working day of the week.
Three categories of factors favorize neck pain among office workers.
Individual factors: gender, age, smoking, prior history of back pain.
Work environment factors: bad neck posture at desk, prolonged sitting position, repetitive work, dry air, temperature fluctuations.
Psycho-social factors: mental tiredness, shortage of personnel, stress.
As we can see, there are things that can’t be changed (over 30 years old women are more likely to suffer from neck pain). But there are several different factors that can be assessed. We will discuss about it in more depth in a future blog note.
Definition of neck pain
In order to understand how to prevent neck pain, it seems important to properly define it in the first place.
Neck pain is a common problem, with multidimensional causes, that represents an economical burden.
Persisting neck pain is common in society, and is believed to originate from soft tissues. Neck pain may arise from any of the innervated structures in the neck, including:
This variety of potentially injured structures emphasizes the importance of a precise initial diagnosis and accurate palpation.
As an osteopath, I aim at treating the cause, not just the symptoms (like pain) in order to prevent a relapse or chronicity.
Office related neck pain is common and costly
Prevalence represents the probability of one individual to suffer from a painful episode of a particular disease, on one year period.
One year prevalence of neck pain in office workers is much higher than in the general population.
Depending on the study we consider, there is a factor 3 or 4 between the two groups (15% vs 50-60%).
Here are some intersting facts about cost of neck pain.
Even though there is not as much information about neck pain, when compared to low back pain, it is interesting to see that in the Netherlands, in 1996, total neck pain health-care costs represented 485 million euros.
Patients with back pain spend about 75% more annually on health care than people without back pain - this does not include costs for lost work time or diminished productivity.
12% of workers with neck pain are taking sick leave for at least 4 weeks, every year.
2 out of 3 office workers believe that neck pain is related to their current job, while 50% say that it started with it.
The costs to the worker, employer and society associated with work-related neck are known to be considerable and are escalating.
Neck pain is an economical burden at different levels : for society, for your company, but also for you, as an individual. Evidence based prevention of neck pain allows to reduce these costs, by preventing the initial acute episode from becoming chronic.
I want to thank you all for your interest, please do not hesitate to comment this article. Feedbacks are always appreciated.
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