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  Neck pain worse for women in the office
Female office workers are three times more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from neck pain, a preliminary Australian study has found.

Dr Julia Hush, of the Back Pain Research Group at the University of Sydney, and colleagues report their findings online in the European Spine Journal.

"Neck pain is certainly one of the big problems in an occupational setting," says Hush.

"It can impact on the ability to do day-to-day activities and has a substantial cost for not only the individual, but also society."

Hush says that between 15 to 44% of people suffer pain in any one year, but recent studies suggest that office-workers are at higher risk of neck pain than others.

She and colleagues took a closer look at what factors were most important in determining who got neck pain and who didn't.

They followed 53 office workers at the University of Sydney over a year, and used questionnaires to find out who developed neck pain and why.

"Almost 50% of people in this cohort, who to start with had no neck pain, developed an episode of neck pain over a period of one year," says Hush.

While the majority of people recovered within a couple of weeks, about 12% suffered longer term, and some even took time off work.
Gender and stress risk factors

Hush and colleagues found that women were around three times more likely to develop neck pain during the year than men.

People who suffered high levels of personal psychological stress were over one and a half times more likely to suffer neck pain than others, says Hush.

On the protective side, the researchers found those who exercised three times a week or more were less likely to suffer neck pain, as were those whose neck was more flexible.

"The incidence of neck pain is very high," says Hush.

"Female gender and high psychological stress can increase the risk of developing neck pain, but if you have greater mobility of your neck and if you exercise more, you might reduce the risk of developing neck pain."

She is not sure why women are more likely to suffer neck pain, but it could be because they hold more tension in their muscles as they work.

Hush says the study also found women were more likely to be suffering from personal psychological stress.

She says the findings suggest neck pain prevention strategies involving exercise and stress reduction could be targeted at women.

Hush says the findings have helped narrow down some of the most important risk factors in neck pain and will be useful in designing a larger study.
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