What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain can be caused by inappropriate working posture.
  • Pain in the neck can be due to injury, a mechanical or muscular problem, a trapped nerve caused by a bulge in one of the discs between the vertebrae, or from arthritis of the neck.
  • It can range from very mild discomfort to severe, burning pain.
  • If the pain is 'acute' - sudden and intense - it is called a crick in the neck, facet syndrome or muscular rheumatism.
  • If the pain has lasted more than three months, it is termed 'chronic' neck pain.
  • Neck pain is a very common condition and is more frequently seen in women than men.
  • Most people will experience pain in the neck at some point in their life.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

To get the best treatment for your neck, it's important to recognize and understand the symptoms. With neck pain, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Neck soreness on one or both sides
  • Burning pain
  • Tingling sensations
  • Stiffness
  • Pain around your shoulder blades
  • Pain, numbness, or weakness in your arm
  • Trouble swallowing, talking, writing, or walking
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Tiredness
  • Unintentional weight loss
You must treat your neck pain properly. Seek medical attention if your pain or related symptoms persists for more than a few days—and seek immediate attention if you have neck pain with any of the following emergency signs:
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irritability
  • Severe tenderness with neck movement
  • Numbness, weakness, and/or tingling
  • You have recently sustained a head or neck injury
Causes of Neck Pain

Most people do not realize how much they move their neck during the day until they are unable to do so. The degree of flexibility of the neck, coupled with the fact that it has the least amount of muscular stabilization and it has to support and move your 14 - 16 pound head, means that the neck is very susceptible to injury. You can picture your neck and head much like a bowling ball being held on top of a stick by small, thin, elastic bands. It doesn’t take much force to disrupt that delicate balance.

You need to know what's causing your neck pain because that impacts your treatment options. As you probably know, there are a lot of ways to experience neck pain. It may be mild or severe, numbing or burning, in your neck or in your hand. There's a variety of symptoms because there's a variety of causes of neck pain. A few common causes are:

Daily Life:
Just getting through every day takes its toll on your body — you most likely know that from first-hand experience. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. You can sleep wrong and wake up with a crick in your neck. You can sit too long at your desk, staring at your computer, and give yourself a stiff neck.

Also, the way you're living could be causing your neck pain. Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt the spine's balance, causing your neck to bend uncomfortably to compensate.

Even healthy, normal activities can cause neck sprains and strains, which can lead to pain. Gardening, tennis, a friendly game of touch football, and even golf can all potentially hurt your neck.

Growing Older:
Age-related disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the cervical spine.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) can cause the intervertebral discs to become less hydrated, and they lose their flexibility, elasticity, and shock-absorbing abilities. And over time, you may develop a bulging disc or a herniated disc. With both bulging and herniated discs, the disc material can press on nerve roots, causing neck pain that may run into the arm, tingling, and/or numbness.

Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder that causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. Without the cartilage, your bones rub together. The body reacts by forming bone spurs (osteophytes), a self-protection step. However, the bone spurs can press on your nerves, causing neck pain.

Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways between the vertebrae to narrow, which can compresses and trap the spinal cord and/or spinal nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain and numbness when these nerves are unable to function normally.

Injury and Accidents:

That's right—whiplash. A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting "rebound" of the head or neck in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden "whipping" motion causes injury to the surrounding and supporting tissues of your neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue that results in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also involve injury to the intervertebral discs, joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash. If you've had a head injury, more than likely, your neck has been affected, too, even if you don't feel it right away. It's wise to seek medical attention immediately.

Other Disorders:
Prolonged pain and/or decreased function of your brain, spinal cord, muscles, or nerves may be an indication of something more serious. Seek medical attention immediately because occasionally, these symptoms may be the result of a spinal infection, spinal cord compression, spinal tumor, fracture, or another disorder.

Facts and Tips about Neck Pain
  • Avoid tired neck muscles at the end of the day! Do some easy stretches—rolling your head from side to side, for example—while sitting at your desk at work.
  • Warm up before exercising: remember especially to stretch your neck.
  • Woke up with a crick in your neck? Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach because that can put more pressure on your shoulders and neck.
  • Check how your computer is set up at home or at the office. You should be able to see the screen without twisting your neck, so make sure it's right in front of you.
  • Stress can make neck pain feel worse…so relax, take some deep breaths, do whatever works best for you in dealing with stress.
  • Right after a neck injury, you should use ice on your neck for 20 minutes at a time. After the first 24-48 hours, alternate between heat and ice (20 minutes on each should be good).