Neck pain can be a right nuisance. It can prevent you from doing what you want to do, whether that be your general daily activities, work, exercise, or sports, which can be highly frustrating.
Neck pain can come on gradually, often due to repetitive poor sitting postures at work, at home, or when driving, poor chair ergonomics, poor sleeping patterns, or even repetitive neck movements during sport or activity.
Neck pain can also come on after a specific incident, such as turning your head too quickly, lifting a heavy object, or a whiplash injury, sustained from a traffic accident, a fall, or during sport or activity.
The most common sources of neck pain are either a slipped disc, muscular tension, wear and tear of the joints in your cervical spine, a muscular strain, a ligament sprain, or a pinched nerve.
A slipped disc is where the soft cushion of tissue, called a disc, which sits between the vertebrae in your spine and normally acts as a shock absorber, bulges out of place. If the slipped disc is large, then it can compress the nerves exiting your neck, resulting in other symptoms, such as pins and needles, numbness, or weakness, running down one or both of your arms. A slipped disc can also be referred to as a disc herniation, a disc protrusion, a disc prolapse, or a disc bulge.
Muscular tension is where the muscles in your neck become tight, tense, contracted, and knotted.
Wear and tear of the vertebral joints in your cervical spine is a natural process that happens as you age. There are 4 stages of wear and tear. The first stage is where the cartilage between the vertebrae in your neck starts to thin. The second stage is where the joint space between your vertebrae begins to narrow, and the cartilage begins to break down. The third stage is where the joint space becomes even narrower, and gaps in the cartilage can appear. The final stage is where the joint space is greatly reduced, the loss of cartilage reaches beyond 60%, and large bony spurs form.
A muscular strain happens when a muscle is overstretched. Minor injuries may only overstretch a muscle, while more severe injuries may involve partial or complete tears in the muscle.
A ligament sprain happens when a ligament is overstretched. Minor injuries may only overstretch a ligament, while more severe injuries may involve partial or complete tears in the ligament.
A pinched nerve is where one or more nerves exiting your neck become compressed. The compression of the nerve can be caused by either a slipped disc, or spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the part of the spine where nerves pass through, or spondylolisthesis, where one of the bones in your spine slips out of position. A pinched nerve can often be associated with other symptoms, such as shoulder pain or arm pain, and can even result in pins and needles, numbness, or weakness, running down one or both of your arms.
As I’m sure you’re beginning to realise, there are such a wide range of potential causes for your neck pain.