Your spine is important and, when you’re experiencing chronic neck pain, it can be scary. How do you know when neck pain crosses the line from being “a pain in the neck” to something more serious?
Check out this quick reference guide for common causes of neck pain and when it’s time to see a doctor.
Common Neck Pain Causes
The tricky thing about neck pain is that it can have a number of causes. Most of the time it’s temporary and could go away with something as simple as a good night’s sleep or a dose of over-the-counter pain medication. Common causes include:
- Tension headaches: Tension headaches are an incredibly common brand of headache and they are often associated with pain and tenderness in the neck.
- Sleep position: Sleeping in a position where your head lacks support and your neck is strained can often cause neck pain. To avoid neck pain from sleep, try sleeping on your back. You might also need a new mattress or pillow for additional support.
- Looking up and down: People tend to hold their cellphones too low and situate their televisions too high. This can lead to looking up or down for extended periods of time, which can cause neck pain.
- Using the phone: While pinching your phone between your ear and your might be a convenient way to hold a conversation while keeping your hands free, this practice can put strain on your neck.
- Dehydration: The discs in your spine that separate your vertebrae need hydration. If your body is dehydrated, these spongy discs become less spongy, which can lead to neck pain.
- Carrying heavy objects: Carrying too much weight in one hand, such as in a briefcase or purse, can put undue strain on your shoulders, back and neck.
- Posture: Sitting in a slouched position with your head in front of your shoulders can put a greater strain on your neck.
Serious Neck Pain Causes
While neck pain often results from less-serious conditions such as slouching or dehydration, there are a number of serious medical conditions that can cause neck pain as well. If you’re experiencing serious neck pain, you may want to consider seeing a spine specialist at the Orthopedic Institute.
- Worn joints: Just like other joints in your body, the padding between your vertebrae can wear down with age. This can cause bone spurs which can affect your joint motion and cause pain.
- Injuries: Rear-end auto collisions can result in whiplash injury, which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck. Strains or sprains to the neck after an auto accident may not be immediately evident. Symptoms may start or intensify in the days after the accident but generally are short lived and treated with simple conservative measures such as ice, heat, over the counter anti-inflammatories, muscle stimulation or a exercise/therapy program.
- Disease: Certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or other inflammatory conditions can cause pain and stiffness in the neck. If you have persistent symptoms and family history of auto-immune diseases you may want to contact your physician.
- Nerve compression: The disks in your spine that separate your vertebrae are soft on the inside with a tough exterior on the outside. A herniated disk occurs when the softer inside ruptures through the tougher exterior. A herniated disk in your neck may also cause pain in your shoulder or arm. Herniated disks, along with bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck, can press on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord, resulting in pain, weakness or numbness and tingling
If you have severe, lasting pain, and signs that may indicate one of the more serious causes of neck pain mentioned above, it’s time to Stand Up For Your Spine. Learn more about our experienced neck and back team.