Although neck pain is not associated with fatal outcomes, it is among the most burdensome health problems on a global scale. This has been established by Australian researchers through the analysis of relevant data from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study. Their findings have been published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases journal.
The research team, led by Damian Hoy of the University of Queensland, used as their working definition any pain in the neck lasting a minimum of one day, with or without spreading to either or both arms. They reviewed the data to establish the prevalence, incidence, remission, duration and mortality risk, looking to determine the number of people suffering from neck pain and the effect of the condition on their quality of life.
The researchers estimated that 4.9% of the global population currently suffers from neck pain. Disability-adjusted life years in 2010 were calculated at 33.6 million. This term refers to years lost as a result of poor health, disability or premature death. Back in 1990, disability-adjusted life years numbered 23.9 million and the increase clearly shows that the problem has been spreading. Among the 291 conditions covered in the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, neck pain occupied fourth place for years lost due to disability and came 21st in the overall burden rankings.
In the concluding comments of their report, the researchers said that neck pain had become a common problem and was associated with significant disability. As the global population ages, the scientific community has to respond without delay through further studies focused on improving understanding, prevention and management of the condition.