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J Occup Health. 2016;58(1):16-24. doi: 10.1539/joh.15-0168-OA. Epub 2015 Oct 23.

Predictors for chronic neck and low back pain in office workers: a 1-year prospective cohort study.

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Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University.



All occupations expose workers to varied and unique conditions. The nature of work has been recognized as influencing the health of workers. Whether predictors for chronic neck and low back pain would be occupation-specific is unknown. This study aimed to identify predictors for chronic neck and low back pain in a cohort of office workers.


A prospective study was carried out among 669 healthy office workers. At baseline, risk factors were assessed using a questionnaire and standardized physical examination. A symptomatic case was defined as an individual who reported pain greater than 30 mm on a 100-mm VAS, and chronic pain was defined as experiencing ongoing neck or low back pain for greater than 3 months over the past 6 months. Two regression models were built to analyze the risk factors for developing chronic neck and low back pain.


Of the sample, 17 and 27% of office workers who reported a new onset of neck or low back pain developed chronicity, respectively. Predictors for chronic neck pain were high body mass index, frequent neck extension during the work day, high initial pain intensity, and high psychological job demands. The development of chronic low back pain was associated with history of low back pain and high initial pain intensity.


The findings suggest that predictors for chronic musculoskeletal pain in a subpopulation may be a subset of predictors identified in a general population or occupation specific. Successful management to prevent chronic musculoskeletal pain may also need to consider the patient's occupation.

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