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J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 Feb;32(2 Suppl):S219-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2008.11.022.

The prevalence and incidence of work absenteeism involving neck pain: a cohort of Ontario lost-time claimants.

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  • 1Centre of Research Expertise in Improved Disability Outcomes, University Health Network Rehabilitation Solutions, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Canada.



Cohort study.


To measure the prevalence and incidence of work absenteeism involving neck pain in a cohort of claimants to the Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB).


According to workers' compensation statistics, neck pain accounts for a small proportion of lost-time claims. However, these statistics may be biased by an underenumeration of claimants with neck disorders.


We studied all lost-time claimants to the Ontario WSIB in 1998 and used 2 methods to enumerate neck pain cases. We report the prevalence and incidence of neck pain using 2 denominators: (1) annual number of lost-time claimants and (2) an estimate of the Ontario working population covered by the WSIB.


The estimated percentage of lost-time claimants with neck pain ranged from 2.8% (95% CI 2.5-3.3) using only codes specific for neck pain to 11.3% (95% CI 9.5-13.1) using a weighted estimate of codes capturing neck pain cases. The health care sector had the highest percentage of claims with neck pain. The annual incidence of neck pain among the Ontario working population ranged from 6 per 10,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) (95% CI 5-6) to 23 per 10,000 FTE (95% CI 20-27) depending on the codes used to capture neck pain. Male workers between the ages of 20 and 39 years were the most likely to experience an episode of work absenteeism involving neck pain.


Neck pain is a common and burdensome problem for Ontario workers. Our study highlights the importance of properly capturing all neck pain cases when describing its prevalence and incidence.

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