What Causes Neck Pain

Understanding that neck pain is caused by a deeper problem within the cervical spine is important. There are a number of neck pain causes ranging from some that are more common to others that occur only in rare cases of neck pain.

Neck Pain Causes

Much like the symptoms associated with neck pain, its causes can vary depending on the condition that is present.

The causes of neck pain can result from injuries or conditions that affect what are called the “soft tissues” of the neck (nerves, muscles and ligaments) or in the hard or fixed structures of the cervical spine including the vertebral bones or joints. Typically, it is problems with the soft tissues that are the most common cause of neck pain. In less common cases, a tumor, infection or congenital abnormality may be the neck pain cause.

Bulging Disc

A common cause of neck pain in young adults as well as senior citizens is the bulging disc. This condition involves one or more of the discs between the vertebrae that bulge outside of the normal space they should occupy. While a bulging disc may not always cause neck pain, in severe cases it can bulge so much that it presses on surrounding nerves or results in a narrowing of the spinal canal. When this happens, it causes neck pain symptoms in whichever part of the body is served by the nerve that the bulging disc is pressing on.

Cervical Compression

Among the frequent age-related causes of neck pain, cervical compression is characterized by a loss of normal function in the extremities because the portion of the spinal cord within the neck is being compressed or “squeezed”. Cervical compression can occur due to the effects of normal wear-and-tear as a person ages, or in some cases due to fracture of the cervical spine as the result of injury or accident.  Depending on the nature of the injury, compression can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This squeezing of the spinal cord in the neck can cause neck pain symptoms including general pain, weakness or numbness in the extremities.

Cervical Radiculopathy

The neck pain caused by cervical radiculopathy is considered a secondary condition resulting from compression or irritation of the nerves as they exit the spine. More commonly referred to as a “pinched nerve,” cervical radiculopathy causes neck pain due to dysfunction of or damage to a nerve root located inside the cervical spine. This damage may be the result of pressure from a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis or other injuries that put pressure on the cervical nerve roots. The symptoms of neck pain caused by cervical radiculopathy usually start slowly and may worsen with certain movements or during certain parts of the day.

Cervical Stenosis

Cervical spinal stenosis, also called cervical myelopathy, is a common cause of neck pain, especially among those who are over the age of 50 and in the elderly population. This condition involves the narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck area or upper part of the spine. The narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck causes pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerve branches. Often, cervical stenosis in the neck causes pain symptoms only when the nerves or spinal cord become squeezed. Some people with cervical stenosis have a history of some type of trauma to the neck. However, this trauma may have occurred many years before it causes neck pain symptoms to appear.

Collapsed Disc

Another in the category of degenerative cervical spine conditions, a collapsed disc can cause neck pain as the result of a breakdown in the normal structure of the disc between the vertebrae in the neck. When a disc collapses, it can cause a domino effect of other surrounding vertebrae to painfully rub together. As is the case with bulging discs, the collapsed disc can put pressure on the nerves, the likeliest cause of the neck pain symptoms that are being experienced.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Referred to by some people as a “stiff neck,” degenerative disc disease is another common cause of neck pain. Over time, the cushions (discs) between the vertebrae in the neck become worn and the bones themselves can become irregular. From this irregularity, the vertebrae can develop bone spurs that may limit the space between the vertebrae, thus pinching on surrounding nerve roots. As degenerative disc disease progresses, the neck becomes less flexible, resulting in pain and stiffness.

No matter the cause of the neck pain, no one should have to just “live with it.” If you or someone you know needs help in getting to the bottom of what is causing their neck pain, the expert team at BASIC has the vast experience, advanced-training and specialty qualifications to help.

Health Tips For Neck

  • Stretch & Exercise Neck Muscles
  • Sleep on your back & consider a cervical neck pillow
  • Use proper posture & position computer screen at eye level
  • Don’t hold telephone between ear and shoulder
  • Carry weight evenly – no heavy bags or satchels on one side of body

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