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Health and Fitness News

Neck Pain Explained

Neck pain is a common complaint. Here are nine possible causes.

As you know, your neck supports your head. Since the human head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds, it’s no easy task to support and move your head around. To make it happen, the neck depends upon a number of intricate pieces working in harmony.

Inside your neck are vertebrae in the spine that connect to your skull. Cervical discs between each vertebrae help absorb the shock of constant movement, and the muscles and ligaments in your neck enable your head to move around. Any injury, inflammation, or abnormalities in your neck can lead to neck problems.

Neck pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion are common conditions that usually resolve on their own after a few days. Other times, pain persists and is a sign of a more serious condition that requires medical attention.
What can bring about a pain in your neck? You’re about to find out.

1. Injury

The neck can be easily injured during falls, sports activities, or car accidents. All it takes is for the muscles and ligaments to be stretched past their normal range of motion. Whiplash is a common example and occurs when the head is suddenly jerked during a car accident. Some injuries to the neck are also caused when neck bones fracture.

2. Muscle Strain

Sitting at a desk all day, having poor posture, staring down at your phone for long periods of time, or carrying around a heavy purse can all cause muscle strain in your neck. Sometimes stress, sleeping in the wrong position, or gritting your teeth can lead to neck strain. Basically anything that doesn’t have your neck in a comfortable position could cause strain and pain.

3. Worn Joints

Your neck is a joint that’s affected by age. As you get older, the joints in your body lose their flexibility and stiffen. This is often because the cartilage thins, there’s less fluid in your joints to keep them lubricated, and your supporting ligaments shorten. Bone spurs can form that contribute to pain. In some cases, osteoarthritis is to blame.

4. Compressed Nerves

Some neck pain may be due to a pinched or compressed nerve in the neck. Usually caused by bone spurs, herniated disks, or sudden twisting or lifting, a pinched nerve can lead to numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain that extends down your arm. Overcoming this type of pain often requires surgical intervention.

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation, often focusing in on the joints. This condition can also cause swelling, pain, bone spurs, and bone erosion in the neck and other joints. Proper management is the best way to fend off neck pain.

6. Meningitis

When neck pain and stiffness occur along with fever and headache, get emergency medical care. It may be meningitis. Caused by a virus, bacteria, fungal, or parasitic infection, meningitis is the swelling of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain, and it can be a life-threatening illness.

7. Spondylosis

Also called osteoarthritis of the neck, spondylosis occurs when your spinal disks begin to degenerate and shrink. This puts pressure on your vertebrae and may cause bone spurs to develop. More than 80 percent of senior citizens have cervical spondylosis. Symptoms may include neck pain, stiffness, or a pinched nerve.

8. Herniated Cervical Disk

A herniated disk, also known as a slipped disk or ruptured disk, is the end result of injury, trauma, normal wear and tear, or genetics. This common cause of neck pain occurs when a disk begins to protrude and places pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

9. Spinal Stenosis

When the spinal column narrows and the spaces between your spine shrink, pressure increases on the nerves in your neck. You may have no symptoms or you may experience pain; numbness; or tingling and weakness in the arm, hand, leg, or foot.

Regardless of what causes your neck pain, seeking medical attention early gives you access to the widest array of treatment options. So if you’re facing a pain in the neck, face it head on. You’ll be glad you did!