What Causes Neck Pain

What Causes Neck Pain?

If you have neck pain and you’re wondering what causes neck pain… neck pain can come from a lot of places. Neck pain can be caused by laying crooked while watching TV. You can also get neck pain as a response to a cold or flu. Your neck may also hurt because of a sinus infection (“referred pain”).

Other causes of neck pain include injuries like car accidents, over lifting or carrying, pinching the phone between your ear and shoulder. Neck pain can even be caused by “stress.”

Rare… but dangerous causes of neck pain include bleeding inside the head during a stroke… or neck pain due to a heart attack. Obviously, these rare but dangerous causes of neck pain must be evaluated and treated in an emergency care situation.

There’s even a category of neck pain causes called “insidious” or “idiopathic.” This means that we DON’T KNOW where the neck pain is coming from. It’s important to understand that neck pain is a symptom… not a disease… which means we have to identify the cause…if we can.

Below are some COMMON causes of neck pain (please refer to the picture above):

  1. Degenerative DisC Disease: Over time (years), repeated injuries to the neck can result in Degenerative Disc Disease. The small “shock absorbers” that lie between the vertebral bodies in your neck lose their water retaining capabilities… and become narrow and less flexible. This is a common source of neck pain and stiffness.
  2. Mechanical Neck Pain: Any condition that does not involve the pinching of nerves can be placed in this category. There are 2 small joints called “facets” that lie in the back of your neck bones. These small facet joints are a common source of neck pain. Neck “sprains” or injury to ligaments that hold your neck bones together fall in this category. Also, neck “strains” or injury to your neck muscles and/or tendons that move your neck bones are also grouped here.
  3. Pinched nerves: Result in pain down the arm. There are 2 primary causes of pinched nerves:
    1. Herniated disc: Think of a disc-like a jelly donut. When the jelly “leaks” out and pinches a nerve that’s a herniated disc. This can result in pain down your arms, wrists or hands.
    2. Bone spurs: Abnormal bone growth off the front of your facets &/or back edge of your neck bones can also pinch a nerve, resulting in the classic arm pain.
  4. Spinal stenosis: (2-types)
    1. Central Spinal Stenosis: A narrow spinal canal pinches the spinal cord creating pain, numbness and/or weakness in the arms &/or legs.
    2. Lateral Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the hole where the nerve exits creating arm pain, numbness or weakness, if the nerve is pinched.

Of course, there are many other causes of neck pain, but the above causes are quite common and should be first considered when you’re trying to figure out what may be causing your neck pain. We’ve treated hundreds of patients with neck pain. If you need our help with your neck pain, call our office at (831) 475-8600.

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