Neck pain is a tenderness or discomfort in the neck area, and can result from any disorder to the larynx, trachea, oesophagus or be related to the cervical vertebrae and connecting muscles, ligaments and soft tissue of the neck. Neck pain can also be a result of injury or bad posture.
Neck pain is caused by an underlying problem triggered by injury or
disease to the muscles, bones, joints and soft tissue of the neck. The
common causes of neck pain are listed below:
Mechanical neck pain – this is the most common type of neck pain and sometimes referred to as 'simple neck pain' or 'non-specific neck pain'. This type of problem is caused by injury or sprain to the muscles and ligaments of the neck typically from bad posture (especially in those who spend time sat at a desk) or over-use.
Whiplash – whiplash injuries to the neck typically occur after a car accident and may be felt immediately or can develop a few hours after the event.
Acute primary torticollis – the term 'torticollis' refers to the head twisting to one side resulting in pain when the head is moved straight again. Injury or poor posture causes the muscles on one side to spasm resulting in pain.
Degenerative problems – as the body ages, wear and tear on the vertebrae and discs of the spine causes pain and immobility. Conditions such as cervical spondylosis and arthritis can cause this type of neck pain problem.
Cervical radiculopathy – nerves in the spinal cord region of the neck can become injured or be pressed upon causing numbness, pins and needles and weakness in the arm. Slipped discs and cervical spondylosis can cause cervical radiculopathy.
Other causes of neck pain include:
The common symptom of neck pain is a general pain located on one of
both sides of the neck and accompanied by stiffness to the muscles.
Pain can radiate down to the shoulders or between the shoulder blades and then out to the arms and hands. Neck pain can also move up to the head leading to headaches.
Muscles around the neck area can feel tense or sore and hard to the touch. Acute pain can lead to the neck moving into an abnormal posture forcing the head to turn to the side. Pain felt at the base of the skull can result in a weakness to the shoulders and arms. Neck pain can also be accompanied by pins and needles or a tingling sensation through the arms and onto the fingers.
Neck pain can also be a symptom of meningitis if any of the following are also present:
The majority of cases of neck pain can be self-diagnosed as they are
typically caused by poor posture or sleeping in an awkward position.
However, a visit to the GP is recommended if the pain is severe or
persistent to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
A GP will carry out a physical examination by testing the range of movement of the neck. They will also check for trapped nerves and examine the muscles for any problems. The GP will also examine joint movement in the spine, neck and hands.
Further tests such as X-rays, scans or blood tests may be required to make an accurate diagnosis of the neck pain.