Most people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. It can be acute, meaning it lasts a few hours to a few weeks, or it can be chronic. Neck pain that lasts several weeks or longer is considered chronic. Most causes of neck pain aren’t serious. Poor posture at work, such as leaning into your computer, and during hobbies, such as hunching over your workbench, are common causes. But sometimes neck pain can signify something more serious. If your neck pain is so severe that you can’t touch your chin to your chest despite a few days of self-care, seek immediate medical attention.
Neck pain can result from several causes, including:
Muscle strains. Overuse, such as too much time spent 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.
Worn joints. Like the other joints in your body, your neck joints experience wear and tear with age, which can cause osteoarthritis in your neck. Neck (cervical) osteoarthritis can cause pain and stiffness in your neck.
Disc disorders. As you age, the cushioning discs between your vertebrae become dry and stiff, narrowing the spaces in your spinal column where the nerves come out. The discs in your neck also can herniate. This means the inner gelatinous cartilage material of a disc protrudes through the disc’s tougher cartilage covering. Neck Pain may occur or nearby nerves can be irritated. Other tissues and bony growths (spurs) also can press on your nerves as they exit your spinal cord, causing pain.
Infectious or Inflammatory. Disorders such as discitis (infection of the disc space), or epidural abscess (infection around the lining of the spinal cord) usually require specialist help. Disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia may need a Rheumatologist to advise treatment options.
Injuries. 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.
Tumours. Spinal Tumours of the Neck are rare but need to be excluded in any neck pain assessment. They can be primary (originate form the neck structures), or secondary (originate elsewhere and have spread to the neck). They can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer).