What Can Cause Neck Pain

Most people have experienced neck pain at one point or another. The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain, which is often a result of poor posture, and osteoarthritis can also lead to neck pain. On occasion, neck pain can indicate a more serious problem, though this is far less likely than the benign neck pain most people experience. If your neck pain is accompanied by other symptoms, including pain that radiates into the arms, fever, or unexplained weight loss, consult with a doctor to look for underlying issues.

Neck pain may be characterized by tightness or spasms in the muscles of the neck, decreased mobility of the neck and head, a headache, and pain that gets worse when you hold your head in the same position for an extended period of time. Most of the time, neck pain improves on its own, over the course of a few days to a week. If your neck pain is severe or persists for several days, or if it radiates to the limbs or is accompanied by fever, headache, or numbness, see a doctor. You should also seek medical care if your neck pain arises following an injury, like an accident or fall.

Benign neck pain can have a few different causes. If you think about how heavy a person’s head is, it’s not too surprising that the neck is susceptible to strains and injuries. Muscle strain, caused by overuse, is a common cause of neck pain. This muscle strain can occur when a person spends hours hunched over, in front of a computer, phone, or workbench. Muscle strain can also be caused by more minor things, like chronic gritting of the teeth, which creates tension in the neck.

Neck pain might also arise as the joints in the neck wear down, which occurs naturally as people age. Osteoarthritis compromises the cartilage cushion that sits between the bones of the spine, which slowly deteriorates. As the cartilage degrades, the body forms bone spurs that can limit spinal motion and cause pain. These bone spurs can compress the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord, which can also be compressed by herniated discs, leading to neck pain. Injury that causes the head to jerk backward or forward suddenly, like being rear-ended in a car, can also strain the neck muscles and cause pain. Finally, certain diseases like meningitis or cancer can cause neck pain.

The best way to prevent neck pain that is associated with normal muscle stain is to focus on using good posture throughout your day-to-day activities. The shoulders should be aligned straight over the hips, and the ears should be directly over the shoulders. Additionally, if your job requires you to look at a computer for a long time, drive long distances, or otherwise hold your head in a possibly awkward position for an extended period, try to take breaks frequently, getting up to move around and stretch your shoulders and your neck. Arrange your workstation ergonomically, with your computer screen at eye level and your knees just lower than your hips.

Break the habit of holding your phone between your ear and your shoulder, and use a headset or speakerphone whenever possible. Smoking increases the risk of neck pain; if you smoke, try to quit. For optimal neck health and comfort, specialists also recommend that people avoid carrying heavy shoulder bags, and that they sleep with the head and neck aligned, using a small pillow to support the neck. If you’re experiencing neck pain, you may find relief from sleeping on your back with your thighs elevated, which helps keep the cervical spine in alignment with the rest of the spine, reducing stress and minimizing pain.

Is My Neck Pain Serious