What are the causes of neck pain?

What a Pain in the Neck!

Whether it comes on gradually or hits you like a ton of bricks, neck pain is a real pain in the neck. Frequently, when there is discomfort in the cervical spine or neck, the symptoms spread to the upper back and shoulders as the muscles that hold up your head struggle to maintain the status quo. These postural muscles are constantly working to offset the pull of gravity (which is drawing the head and neck toward the ground) and can easily become overworked and weakened from the workload. The resultant neck pain is part of a cycle of muscle weakness and fatigue that may become chronic unless the cause is determined. Here are some of the more common causes of neck pain:

  • Muscle strain- The muscles that control and maintain the integrity of the cervical spine may experience pain due to overuse. For example, sitting with poor posture at a computer for extended periods of time can result in strain.
  • Worn joints- The vertebrae of the cervical spine can develop osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition in which the bony surfaces begin to wear down.
  • Disc problems- If the cushioning discs between the vertebrae become thinner and less resilient, they may herniate. Or if the space between the vertebrae themselves narrows, the nerves that come out from that space can become irritated. The result is pain.
  • Spurs- Bony growths can form along the edges of the vertebrae due to trauma or wear and tear. This excess bone may press on nerves and cause pain and restricted movement.
  • Injury- A trauma can result in an injury to the neck itself. For example, car accidents frequently cause whiplash, where the head is jerked forward and back, causing overstretching of the tissue in the neck.

Managing and treating neck pain symptoms early and effectively is important to help avoid the onset of a chronic problem.

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