Neck pain includes the physical symptoms of neck pain as well as neurologic symptoms (such as numbness and weakness) in the shoulders and arms as a result of problems with the structures of the cervical spine. Neck pain may be a result of neck problems of the vertebrae, intervertebral discs, or supporting structures of the cervical vertebrae (C1-C7) or the top thoracic vertebrae. Neck pain may be a result of degenerative changes to the cervical vertebrae (spinal bones), cervical discs, or due to an injury (fracture or sprain).
Neck pain (or cervicalgia) is a common problem that up to two-thirds of the population experience at some point. The symptoms of neck pain may be restricted to the area of the neck where the cause of the problem is, or it may radiate along the shoulders or the arms if it is associated with a compression of one of the spinal nerves (nerve root compression). Neck pain may be due to nerve root impingement or due to muscular tightness or spasm in the neck or upper back. Joint disruption in the upper neck or back may also cause neck pain. Neck pain may also be due to a fracture of one or more of the vertebral bones as a result of injury.
Maintaining and restoring neck health through good postural techniques: Bad posture will usually be the cause of non-injury related neck pain, and good posture will likely be the best treatment. The alignment of your upper body is essential to the health of your neck. Proper posture, along with a healthy diet and the prevention of disease, protects against disc degeneration and arthritis. When your shoulders are slumped forwards, you must tip your head backward to maintain postural balance and keep your eyes looking straight ahead. This backward bending of your head created a forward gliding of the lower neck bones and discs, which brings about two harmful results:
- Degenerative Disc Disease, or a wearing down of the spinal discs, which over time, leads to bulging or herniated discs.
- An excessive amount of force that the facet joints must bear, beyond a level of compression that they can handle. This excessive compression on the facet joints may lead to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD). DJD may eventually lead to lateral stenosis or osteophytes.
If patients continue to practice bad postural techniques while at work, at home, and in bed, they may eventually wear out their facet joints, discs, and other supportive structures. The resulting symptoms may be pain felt near the worn out or damaged joints and discs, or it may radiate up to the neck and head or down the arms as far as the finger tips.
Poor posture while people at their desks and in front of the computer is often the result of neck pain. When sitting in front of a desk, in front of the computer, your head and neck should be in a neutral position, in about the same position as if you were standing. Your computer monitor should be close enough to you that you don't have to lead forward to see everything that is on the screen.
The causes of neck pain may include:
- Ruptured Disk
- Muscle Spasms
- Spinal Stenosis (Spinal Canal Narrowing)
- Spinal cord injury
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: Thoracic outlet syndromes are a cluster of spinal disorders that all cause neck pain and unusual sensations (paresthesias) in the hand, neck, shoulders, or arm.