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Neck Pain Causes

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 neck pain 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 compress 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.
Updated on: 02/13/13
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