Physical risk factors for developing non-specific neck pain in office workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Deokhoon Jun
  • Michaleff Zoe
  • Venerina Johnston
  • Shaun O’Leary



Identifying risk factors associated with the development of work-related neck pain in office workers is necessary to facilitate the development of prevention strategies that aim to minimise this prevalent and costly health problem. The aim of this systematic review is to identify individual worker (e.g., lifestyle activity, muscular strength, and posture) and workplace (e.g., ergonomics and work environment) physical factors associated with the development of non-specific neck pain in office workers.


Studies from 1980 to 2016 were identified by an electronic search of Pubmed, CINAHL, EMBASE, Psychlnfo and Proquest databases. Two authors independently screened search results, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias using the epidemiological appraisal instrument (EAI). A random effect model was used to estimate the risk of physical factors for neck pain.


Twenty papers described the findings of ten prospective cohort studies and two randomized controlled trials. Low satisfaction with the workplace environment (pooled RR 1.28; CI 1.07–1.55), keyboard position close to the body [pooled RR 1.46; (CI 1.07–1.99)], low work task variation [RR 1.27; CI (1.08–1.50)] and self-perceived medium/high muscular tension (pooled RR 2.75/1.82; CI 1.60 /1.14–4.72/2.90) were found to be risk factors for the development of neck pain.


This review found evidence for a few number of physical risk factors for the development of neck pain, however, there was also either limited or conflicting factors. Recommendations for future studies evaluating risk factors are reported and how these may contribute to the prevention of neck pain in office workers.


Neck pain Office worker Physical factors Individual factors Ergonomics Work environment Systematic review Meta-analysis 



The authors wish to acknowledge all the authors for the included studies in this review.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deokhoon Jun
    • 1
    • 5
  • Michaleff Zoe
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Venerina Johnston
    • 1
  • Shaun O’Leary
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Health and Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhysiotherapyRoyal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Queensland HealthBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health SciencesKeele UniversityKeeleUK
  4. 4.The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Division of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation SciencesThe University of QueenslandQueenslandAustralia

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