Neck Pain Causes & Conditions
The neck, or cervical spine, is a complex network of bones, muscles, joints and nerves. Neck pain may be felt in the neck itself, but it often originates from a problem in the back. It may also radiate to the shoulders or down the arms, or might be felt as a tension headache. Pain in the neck can be dull and achy, sore and tender or sharp and stabbing, and can make turning the head difficult. Neck pain causes and conditions include whiplash injuries, strains and sprains, as well as conditions like scoliosis, herniated discs or compression fractures of the spine. Degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer can also cause neck pain.
Neck Pain Due to Injury
Whiplash is the term used to describe a condition which arises when a person’s head moves quickly backward and then forward again, like the lash of a whip. Whiplash is a common result of a rear-end car collision, but can also be caused by sports injuries, amusement park rides or physical abuse. Whiplash causes neck pain and stiffness, along with headaches and dizziness.
Neck strains and sprains can happen as a result of an impact, such as in a car collision, from a fall or while playing contact sports, or simply from spending too long in an awkward position. Though neck strains are typically not medically serious, they can cause significant pain, stiffness and discomfort. Pain from both strains and sprains in the neck can radiate downward into the shoulders, and turning the head can be painful and difficult.
Torticollis is a type of neck strain that can occur from an illness or an injury to the head or neck or can be present at birth. Also called wryneck, this condition occurs when the neck is tilted or twisted, causing stiffness, pain and headaches.
When nerves in the neck are irritated, compressed or damaged, cervical radiculopathy can result. Pain and weakness from cervical radiculopathy can be felt in the neck or can radiate to the shoulders or other areas. Similarly, herniated cervical discs—the discs in the neck’s vertebrae—can compress the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord, causing pain in the neck or shoulder blades. This pain might be dull or sharp, and may radiate into the shoulders and arms.
Spinal stenosis is a gradual narrowing of the openings within the spine, and can affect any portion of the spine. When this condition affects the upper portion of the spine or the neck, nerves within the spine can be compressed, causing neck pain, stiffness, numbness and weakness.
Cervical spondylosis, also known as neck arthritis or cervical osteoarthritis, occurs with age, as the cartilage and bones of the neck break down due to wear and tear over time. This condition can cause chronic, severe neck pain and stiffness, especially if bone spurs develop.
Osteoporosis, a degenerative condition that causes the bones to become progressively weaker and more brittle, can cause compression fractures of the spine. Automobile accidents and falls can also cause these fractures in the vertebrae, and the resulting pain can radiate up the spine and into the neck.
Facet joint syndrome can develop anywhere in the spine. The facet joints are small joints between the vertebrae; as they degrade over time due to wear and tear, persistent, chronic neck pain can result.
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs cushioning the vertebrae are weakened due to small, painful tears and scar tissue in the disk wall. Caused by the natural aging process or by injury to the spine, this condition can cause neck pain and stiffness. The pain can also radiate downward into the shoulders, arms and hands.
Other Neck Pain Causes and Conditions
Migraines, tension headaches and whiplash headaches are all common neck pain causes. Headache tenderness and pain can often be felt not only in the head, but in the muscles of the neck as well.
Post-laminectomy syndrome is another term for failed back syndrome, which refers to persistent pain that an individual can experience after surgery on the back. This condition can include neck pain if the surgery involved the upper or cervical spine.
Certain forms of cancer, such as nasopharyngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, laryngeal cancer and metastatic cancer of the spine, can cause persistent neck pain. Nasopharyngeal and thyroid cancer can both cause tender lumps in the neck as well as sore, swollen lymph nodes. Tumors can form with any type of cancer, causing pain if they press against a bone, nerve or other organ.
Serious health conditions such as heart attacks and viral and bacterial meningitis can cause a stiff, sore neck. These conditions require prompt medical attention.
There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing neck pain. You can trust the experts at Balcones Pain to treat you with compassion and to work with you on a treatment plan to alleviate your discomfort.
Videos About Neck Pain Causes and Conditions
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Compression Fracture of the Spine
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Herniated Discs
- Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
- Post Laminectomy Syndrome
- Spinal Stenosis
- Whiplash Headache