Neck Pain Animation

In this video, you will learn about the basics of neck pain and the most common cause of this cervical spine condition: strain in the muscles or other soft tissues in the neck.

Cervical Spine Anatomy
Your spine consists of 33 vertebrae. The top 7 vertebrae are in your neck, which is also called your cervical spine. You may hear your doctor refer to the 7 vertebrae in your cervical spine by a letter and a number: C1–C7 (“C” stands for cervical). Since your head can weigh 8 pounds or more, your cervical spine has a big responsibility—it must support your head and help it move.

The vertebrae in your cervical spine are surrounded by a network of muscles, joints, blood vessels, nerves, and ligaments. The muscles and joints in your neck are what allow you to shake, nod, hold, and turn your head at different angles.

Between the vertebrae are shock-absorbing intervertebral discs, which help cushion your movements. The discs are made up of a fibrous, outer cartilage (annulus fibrosus) and an inner gel (nucleus pulposus).

Common Neck Pain Causes
Neck pain commonly occurs when there is strain placed on the muscles or ligaments that surround the vertebrae in your cervical spine. This can happen for several reasons. For example, you may fall asleep in an uncomfortable position or lift a heavy object incorrectly.

  • Muscles can be strained
  • Ligaments can be sprained

Besides injuries that occur in daily life, neck pain may also be caused by age-related disorders, such as spinal osteoarthritis (spondylosis) or spinal stenosis. To read more about these and other neck pain causes, read Neck Pain Causes.

Neck Pain Treatments
For many people who experience neck pain, the pain goes away on its own after a few days. Only a small number of people will require more serious treatment, like spine surgery. You may be able to treat your neck pain with exercise, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and physical therapy. You may also wish to talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for neck pain, such as acupuncture and massage.

If you have neck pain that does not go away after a few days, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms (such as tingling in the arms or other parts of your body), call your primary care physician or spine specialist.

Updated on: 05/31/18
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