Neck Pain and Neck Stiffness: What are the Causes

Neck pain, which gives you a stiff neck, is a common ailment, and its symptoms cause severe discomfort, to the extent of making you stay absent from work. Headache and/or dizziness often accompany neck pain. Many a times, neck pain and shoulder pain coexist.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Health Statistics, 15% of the Americans are affected by neck pain at any given time. According to More magazine, about 70% of Americans experience neck pain at some point in their life.

Neck pain can arise from different causes and relief is usually obtained from non-invasive treatment unless in severe cases, where the bones of the neck get involved.

Anatomy of neck

The cervical vertebrae are situated one above the other with a cartilage in between each of them. They are held in position by the various neck muscles The cartilages between the vertebrae, are flexible in nature and they prevent the vertebral bones from grinding against each other and also absorb shocks and distribute them. They also facilitate the various movements of the vertebral column like bending of the neck or the back. The various nerves supplying the neck, the shoulders and the hands exit from between the various cervical intervertebral joints.

Neck pain causes and risk factors

A common cause of neck pain and neck stiffness is neck muscle strain, which arises from wrong positioning of the neck over long periods. This can happen from the following daily activities you perform:

  • Poor posture of the neck while watching television or reading. This happens especially if you have a habit of watching television or reading in a sleeping position. This is a common cause of neck pain in children.
  • If you work on the computer regularly, improper positioning of the monitor screen can make you stoop. This position of the neck for a long period can strain your neck muscles and cause neck pain and neck stiffness.
  • Writing on a desk while bending can cause neck muscle strain
  • Neck pain from sleeping is a very common cause. Sleeping with a pillow, which keeps your neck in an uncomfortable position, can give you neck pain.
  • A sudden vigorous turning or stretching of the neck can strain a neck muscle and give you a stiff neck pain.
  • Whiplash is a common cause of neck pain. It is caused by sudden forward or backward movement of the neck. This extensive and sudden movement tears the muscles of the neck. This type of neck pain cause is seen in motor car and railway accidents.
  • Cycling on a regular basis and for long distances has giving many cyclists neck pain. If you see the position of the body when cycling, you will find that the spine is flexed while the neck is in an extended position. There is no alignment between the lower spine and the neck. This puts a tremendous strain on the neck muscles, which causes neck stiffness and pain.

Other serious causes of neck pain

There are other serious causes which can give you neck pain. These are more of medical pathological reasons.

  • Cervical spondylosis is a condition where due to weakened neck muscles, the adjacent cervical vertebrae lose their normal intervertebral spacing and compress or pinch the nerve coming out from the spinal cord.
  • Cervical arthritis is inflammation of the intervertebral joints
  • Damaged intervertebral disc
  • Fractures of the cervical vertebra due to trauma or osteoporosis
  • Tumors, malignant or benign,  in the neck area, which can cause swollen glands
  • Osteomyelitis of the cervical vertebra or any infection in the neck area including the formation of the abscess
  • Fibromyalgia is a condition in which there is tenderness in the bones, joints, muscles and other soft tissues of the body.
  • Degenerative disc disease is a condition, in which the intervertebral disc degenerates with age.
  • Pain of heart attack often radiates to the neck and can manifest as neck pain.
  • Meningitis gives rise to a stiff neck and pain
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