Most people are likely to have neck pain at least once in their lives. The neck or cervical spine supports the weight of your head and unlike the thoracic spine does not have ribs to provide support. The neck also has a greater range of motion and is therefore particularly prone to injury and wear and tear (osteoarthritis).
Most neck pain lasts just a short time. Neck pain that continues longer than several weeks is considered chronic. Persistent neck pain can usually be helped by conservative chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture.
Occasionally, a compressed nerve causes pain, numbness or weakness that extends into your arm, hand or fingers. This could result from a herniated disk or a subluxated vertebra that is causing inflammation around the spinal nerve root. Chiropractic care is particularly effective for treating these conditions conservatively. In extreme cases where the pain in the extremity is worse than the pain in your neck a surgical consult is recommended.
Most neck pain comes from damage to your neck’s muscles, joints and ligaments often in an accident, fall or during contact sports. Whiplash is probably one of the most well-known causes of these injuries, resulting from a back-and-forth snapping of your neck that stretches muscles, ligaments and intervertebral disks beyond their normal range. Less dramatic causes of neck pain are poor posture, slouching over a computer for hours, sleeping with too many pillows and grinding your teeth. Neck pain can also result from osteoarthritis, a wear and tear of the cartilage lining the spinal joint(s) and intervertebral disk(s) resulting in dehydration and narrowing of the disk called spondylosis.
Common causes of neck pain include:
- Carrying heavy items, such as luggage, shopping bags, a backpack or handbag, on one side for long periods
- Cradling your phone between your shoulder and neck
- Herniated disk
- Muscle tension or strains – a stretching or tearing of the muscle
- Poor posture
- Sleeping on your stomach or with too many or too few pillows
- Cervical dystonia
- Spinal stenosis
- Trauma from accidents or falls