Neck pain is becoming increasingly common throughout the world. It has a considerable impact on individuals and their families, communities, health-care systems, and businesses. There is substantial heterogeneity between neck pain epidemiological studies, which makes it difficult to compare or pool data from different studies. The estimated 1 year incidence of neck pain from available studies ranges between 10.4% and 21.3% with a higher incidence noted in office and computer workers. While some studies report that between 33% and 65% of people have recovered from an episode of neck pain at 1 year, most cases run an episodic course over a person's lifetime and, thus, relapses are common. The overall prevalence of neck pain in the general population ranges between 0.4% and 86.8% (mean: 23.1%); point prevalence ranges from 0.4% to 41.5% (mean: 14.4%); and 1 year prevalence ranges from 4.8% to 79.5% (mean: 25.8%). Prevalence is generally higher in women, higher in high-income countries compared with low- and middle-income countries and higher in urban areas compared with rural areas. Many environmental and personal factors influence the onset and course of neck pain. Most studies indicate a higher incidence of neck pain among women and an increased risk of developing neck pain until the 35-49-year age group, after which the risk begins to decline. The Global Burden of Disease 2005 Study is currently making estimates of the global burden of neck pain in relation to impairment and activity limitation, and results will be available in 2011. 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.