The neck is made up of 7 cervical vertebrae linked by intervertebral discs and joints and is supported by ligaments and muscles. The cervical spine has an important function of providing support to the head along with movement in several directions. Neck pain and stiffness are experienced commonly by many people. It can develop suddenly, such as from an injury, or it may develop slowly over time, such as from years of poor posture or wear and tear. Neck pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back, or arms, or it may cause a headache. Let us explore some common causes of neck pain.
- Muscle Strain– Most common cause of neck pain. Its results from overuse or strenuous unaccustomed physical activity episode. Pain is worse with movement and is associated with muscle spasm and restricted neck mobility.
- Poor posture– Forward head posture, sitting on a desk, tilting the head to one side while talking on the phone for long periods of time can lead to neck pain. Also, bad sleeping positions affect the alignment of the neck with the rest of the body. Factors like the thickness of the pillows, the number of pillows used, and the firmness of the mattress all affect the neck alignment.
- Cervical radiculopathy or pinched nerve– Pressure on the nerve from herniated disc or bone spur can cause neck pain radiating down the arm along with numbness, weakness, and pins and needles sensation.
- Cervical spondylosis– Age-related degeneration in the cervical spine leading to thinning of discs and small bone lump formations called bone spurs or osteophytes. It predisposes to chronic or persistent pain in the neck.
- Cervical injury-Whiplash injury or sudden jolt to the neck is a common one encountered in a car accident. It can happen in sporting activities too resulting in neck pain that may last for several days or weeks or even months.
- Stress-Physical or emotional stress causes neck pain resulting from muscular tension generated in neck and shoulder muscles. The neck muscles may develop hard knots known as trigger points that are tender to touch.
- Carrying heavy loads over one shoulder-As the heavy shoulder bag puts pressure pulling down on one side, we constantly use the muscles in our backs and necks to keep our head and shoulders upright leading to muscular tension and pain.
- Spinal Stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal- Due to degenerative changes in the spine leading to pressure on the spinal cord.
- Rare causes of neck pain are fractures, infection, tumors, and inflammation.
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