Your neck contains bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles and nerves, any of which can hurt. Neck pain also may come from regions near your neck, such as your jaw, head and shoulders. Conversely, problems in your neck can make other parts of your body hurt, such as your upper back, shoulders or arms.
If your nerves are involved in your neck pain, you may also feel numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs.
Muscle strains. Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over a steering wheel, often triggers muscle strains. Neck muscles, particularly those in the back of your neck, become fatigued and eventually strained. When you overuse your neck muscles repeatedly, chronic pain can develop. Even such minor things as reading in bed or gritting your teeth can strain neck muscles. Arthritis. Just like all the other joints in your body, your neck joints tend to deteriorate with age. Disk disorders. As you age, the cushioning disks between your vertebrae become dry, narrowing the spaces in your spinal column where the nerves come out. The disks in your neck also can herniate. This means the inner gelatinous material of a disk protrudes through the disk's tough covering. Nearby nerves can be irritated. Other tissues and bony growths also can press on your nerves as they exit your spinal cord, causing pain. Injury Rear-end collisions often result in whiplash injuries, which occur when the head is jerked forward and back, stretching the soft tissues of the neck beyond their limits.
When to seek medical advice:
Muscle irritations are usually easy to self-diagnose. They typically come on after excessive activity, a period of overuse or prolonged postures that put excessive strain on your neck muscles. But they usually get better on their own within a few days to a couple of weeks. If the pain doesn't let up within a week or two, see your doctor.
Also see your doctor if the following signs and symptoms occur in conjunction with neck pain:
Severe pain from an injury. After head or neck trauma, such as whiplash or a blow to your head, see your doctor immediately. Severe pain over a bone might indicate a fracture or an injury to a ligament. Shooting pain. Pain radiating to your shoulder, through your shoulder blades or down your arm, or numbness or tingling in your fingers, may indicate nerve irritation.
Neck pain from nerve irritation can last from three to six months or longer. Because serious problems may occur after continued nerve irritation, see your doctor. Loss of strength. Weakness in an arm or a leg, walking with a stiff leg, or shuffling your feet indicates the need for immediate evaluation. Change in bladder or bowel habits. Any significant change, especially a sudden onset of incontinence, could indicate a neurological problem.
Disclaimer: The information provided in MDJunction is not a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice.
In case of EMERGENCY call 911 or 1.800.273.TALK (8255) to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Read more.