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The Link between Work and Neck Pain in Teens

Posted on: 04/11/2002
If your teen says work's a pain, he or she may really mean it. A study of 500 high school students suggests that teens who work during the school year are more susceptible to neck and arm pain.

For the purposes of this study, work was divided into three categories: childcare, blue-collar work, and white-collar work. Childcare included babysitting, counseling children, and tutoring other students. Blue-collar work included construction, delivery, yard work, and maintenance. White-collar work included sales and office jobs.

Teenagers who worked were almost twice as likely to develop neck and arm pain as those who didn't work. Students doing childcare were the most likely to develop pain. Blue-collar workers were the least likely to have pain. There may be several reasons for this. Childcare often involves the use of the arms for lifting and holding. Students who work blue-collar jobs may be more fit and better able to do physical tasks.

Neck and arm pain were greatest during the school year, especially between the fall and spring. Working during the school year may cause stress. This places teens at greater risk for neck and arm pain.

Playing sports or musical instruments was not linked to neck and arm pain. But poor mental health was linked to these problems. Researchers don't know which comes first: the physical pain or the depression. The role of smoking in teens' neck and arm pain could not be assessed since the majority of smokers in the study moved away before the study ended. This means the results of the study are based on nonsmokers.

Neck and arm pain are common in teenagers, especially teens who work. Pain is greatest between fall and spring. Lowering stress may help protect working students from neck and arm pain.

Debbie E. Feldman, PhD, et al. Risk Factors For the Development of Neck and Upper Limb Pain in Adolescents. In Spine. March 1, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 5. Pp. 523-528.

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