Workplace stressors have been indicated to play a role in the development of neck and upper extremity pain possibly through an increase of sustained (low-level) muscle activity. The aim of this review was to study the effects of workplace stressors on muscle activity in the neck-shoulder and forearm muscles. An additional aim was to find out whether the muscles of the neck-shoulder and the forearm are affected differently by different types of workplace stressors. A systematic literature search was conducted on studies investigating the relation between simulated or realistic workplace stressors and neck-shoulder and forearm muscle activity. For studies meeting the inclusion criteria, a risk of bias assessment was performed and data were extracted for synthesis. Results were pooled when possible and otherwise described. Twenty-eight articles met the inclusion criteria, reporting data of 25 different studies. Except for one field study, all included studies were laboratory studies. Data of 19 articles could be included in the meta-analysis and revealed a statistically significant, medium increase in neck-shoulder and forearm muscle activity as a result of workplace stressors. In subgroup analyses, we found an equal effect of different stressor types (i.e. cognitive/emotional stress, work pace, and precision) on muscle activity in both body regions. In conclusion, simulated workplace stressors result in an increase in neck-shoulder and forearm muscle activity. No indications were found that different types of stressors affect these body regions differently. These conclusions are fully based on laboratory studies, since field studies on this topic are currently lacking. © 2013 The Author(s).