Understanding Neck Problems
If you suffer from neck pain, you’re not alone. Many people have neck pain at some point in their lives. Problems such as poor posture, injury, and wear and tear can lead to neck pain. Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the treatment that’s best for your neck.
Types of Neck Problems
Pain and injury in the neck can be caused by the following problems:
Strains and sprains: Strains (stretched or torn muscles) and sprains (stretched or torn ligaments) can cause neck pain. Strains and sprains can occur during an accident or when the neck is overused through repetitive motion. They can also cause muscles and ligaments to become inflamed (swollen and painful).
Whiplash and other injuries: Whiplash can result when an impact throws the head, forcing the neck too far forward (hyperflexion), then too far backward (hyperextension). When combined, the two motions can cause a painful injury to different parts of the neck, such as muscles, ligaments, or joints. The most common cause of whiplash is a car accident. But it can also happen during a fall or sports injury.
Weakened disks: A simple action, such as a sneeze or cough, can cause a disk to bulge (herniate). A herniated disk can put pressure on the nerve and cause pain. Over time, disks can also thin out (degenerate). Flattened disks don’t cushion vertebrae well and can cause vertebrae to rub together. Rubbing vertebrae can pinch nerves and cause pain.
Weakened joints: Aging and injury can cause joints to slowly degenerate. Thinned joints can also cause vertebrae to rub together. This can cause abnormal growths of bone (bone spurs) to form on vertebrae. Bone spurs put pressure on nerves, causing pain.
If you have a neck problem, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
Muscle tension and spasm: You may not be able to move your neck, arms, or shoulders comfortably if you have muscle tension or stiffness in your neck. If your symptoms aren’t relieved, you may experience muscle spasms, or knots of contracted tissue (trigger points) in areas of your neck and shoulders.
Aches and pains: Dull aches in your head or neck, sharp pains, and swelling of the soft tissue of the neck and shoulders are common symptoms. If there’s pressure on the nerves in your neck, you may feel pain in your arms or hands (referred pain).
Numbness or weakness: If the nerves in your neck are injured, you may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in your shoulders, arms, or hands. These symptoms arise when disks or bone spurs press on the nerves in your neck.