Open Access Open Badges Research article

Risk factors for the onset and persistence of neck pain in undergraduate students: 1-year prospective cohort study

Siriluck Kanchanomai1, Prawit Janwantanakul2*, Praneet Pensri2 and Wiroj Jiamjarasrangsi3

Author Affiliations

1 Biomedical Sciences (Interdisciplinary Program) Graduate School, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

2 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

3 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:566  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-566

Published: 15 July 2011



Although neck pain is common in young adulthood, studies on predictive factors for its onset and persistence are scarce. It is therefore important to identify possible risk factors among young adults so as to prevent the development of neck pain later in life.


A prospective study was carried out in healthy undergraduate students. At baseline, a self-administered questionnaire and standardized physical examination were used to collect data on biopsychosocial factors. At 3, 6, 9, and 12 months thereafter, follow-up data were collected on the incidence of neck pain. Those who reported neck pain on ≥ 2 consecutive follow-ups were categorized as having persistent neck pain. Two regression models were built to analyze risk factors for the onset and persistence of neck pain.


Among the recruited sample of 684 students, 46% reported the onset of neck pain between baseline and 1-year follow-up, of whom 33% reported persistent neck pain. The onset of neck pain was associated with computer screen position not being level with the eyes and mouse position being self-rated as suitable. Factors that predicted persistence of neck pain were position of the keyboard being too high, use of computer for entertainment < 70% of total computer usage time, and students being in the second year of their studies.


Neck pain is quite common among undergraduate students. This study found very few proposed risk factors that predicted onset and persistence of neck pain. The future health of undergraduate students deserves consideration. However, there is still much uncertainty about factors leading to neck pain and more research is needed on this topic.