A Prospective Study of Neck, Shoulder, and Upper Back Pain Among Technical School Students Entering Working Life



      The aim of this prospective study was to relate the prevalence of neck, shoulder, and upper back pain to occupational and individual risk factors among a population of technical school students in their transition from school to working life. In addition, we wanted to assess the changes in pain prevalence during follow-up.


      A cohort consisting of 173 technical school students was followed up during a 3-year period, from their last year of school through their first years of working life. Data on self-reported neck, shoulder, and upper back pain and factors such as mechanical exposure, perceived stress, and physical activity in leisure time were collected.


      A high prevalence of pain in the neck, shoulder, and upper back among the technical school students was found. There were however few students reporting severe pain. Reporting pain at baseline gave over three times higher risk of reporting it at follow-up. A high level of physical activity outside working hours gave a lower risk of reporting neck, shoulder, and upper back pain at follow-up. High and moderate levels of mechanical exposure and high stress level were not found to be risk factors for pain after entering working life.


      Neck, shoulder, and upper back pain are common among adolescents and may persist into working life. These results may give potential for preventive efforts at a young age. There is still much uncertainty about the factors leading to musculoskeletal pain, and more research is needed on this topic.


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