Neck Pain Causes: What You Need To Know

Neck pain is a frequent problem that a wide range of medical issues may cause. It may vary from moderate to severe, with more severe instances potentially suggesting a significant underlying issue.

Neck pain is widespread, and almost everyone will have it at some time in their life. Keeping your neck in the same position for a long time is the most common cause of neck pain. Other factors, however, may contribute to or cause neck pain.

The cervical spine (neck and upper back) comprises seven vertebral bones that support your head. These bones are joined together by spinal discs and are supported by a network of muscles and ligaments (connective tissue). Neck discomfort may be caused by a problem with any of these structures or nerves in or around your neck.

Mild to moderate neck pain can generally be managed at home and resolves within a few weeks. Still, if you get severe neck pain abruptly due to an injury, such as after a vehicle accident or a fall, you should seek urgent medical care. You should also see a doctor if you have numbness or lack of strength in your arms or hands, as well as shooting pain down your arm, in addition to neck discomfort.

This comprehensive guide to neck pain has all the important information from how to sleep with neck pain, the different types and causes of neck pain, neck pain at base of skull, and much more you need to protect yourself, your family from neck pain.

TYPES OF NECK PAINS

pain relief from heating pad. causes of neck pain

Neck pain may range from a mild and annoying ache to a searing, excruciating nerve pain that can extend down the shoulder and into the arm. There may also be significant differences in how the pain began and how long it lasts. Understanding the neck pain symptoms and cause of neck pain is important for developing an effective treatment strategy.

Acute Neck Pain

Acute neck pain appears abruptly, worsens rapidly, and then disappears in a few days. The pain may come and go or be exacerbated by specific motions. The pain may be limited to your neck or spread to your arms, back, or shoulders. You may also have pain that originates in another part of your body and progresses to your neck. Acute neck pain is a protective alarm as well as a normal component of the inflammatory healing process. The neck pain symptoms motivate you to relax and prevent additional harm while your body heals.

Chronic Neck Pain

Chronic pain often develops gradually and may or may not be a discernible underlying cause of neck pain. When pain lasts for at least three months, it is termed chronic. Chronic pain may manifest itself in a variety of ways. It may be dull and achy, or acute and burning, and it can spread into the arm. It might be continuous and relentless, or it could come and go and develop gradually over time.

Chronic neck pain is complicated by the fact that it is often accompanied with depression. Chronic pain makes it difficult to engage in everyday activities such as socialising, effective work or study, and sports involvement. These losses may contribute to feelings of social isolation and a worse quality of life over time. To successfully manage chronic pain, a depression assessment is recommended, followed by therapy as required. 

CAUSES OF NECK PAIN

Neck pain often occurs in middle age and is somewhat more frequent in women and individuals with a family history of neck pain. Smokers, people with psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at greater risk. People over the age of 50 are more likely to have neck pain. But, apart from old age, the reasons for what can cause neck pain are as diverse as the list is lengthy. In that regard, below are some of the neck pain symptoms.

Acute Neck Pain Causes

Muscle/tendon strains and ligament sprains is the most frequent cause of neck pain and recover in days or weeks. Many strains and sprains are caused by overuse or overextension, such as:

Incorrect posture. Long durations of slouching or hunching over a computer screen may result in forwarding head position, which puts additional strain on the neck. Looking down at a phone or tablet repeatedly may potentially be a cause of neck pain, a condition known as text neck.

Sleeping in an inconvenient posture. A stiff neck may occur in the morning if the head is maintained at an incorrect angle or rotates incorrectly throughout the night.

Motions that are repeated. Turning the head in a repeated motion, such as side to side when dancing or swimming, may result in the overuse of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck.

Trauma. Any fall or impact, such as a sports collision or whiplash from a car accident, is an example.

A muscular strain or spasm is not always simply soft tissue damage. In certain instances, a cervical spine issue may be causing a neck muscle to spasm in reaction.

Chronic Neck Pain Causes

When pain lasts or recurs for many months, it is usually related to spinal degeneration can cause neck pain by wear and tear over time (also called cervical spondylosis).

Cervical degenerative. Cervical degenerative disc disease is a kind of degenerative disc disease. Over time, all discs lose moisture and their capacity to cushion the vertebrae of the spine. If a disc degenerates enough, it may produce pain in various ways, including a herniated disc, pinched nerve, or changes in the facet joints that can induce osteoarthritis in certain individuals.

Osteoarthritis. The cervical spine may develop when the cartilage in a cervical facet joint wears down enough. The most frequent cause of neck pain is cervical osteoarthritis.

A herniated disc in the cervical spine. When the protective outer layer (annulus fibrosus) of an intervertebral disc rips partly or entirely, some of the jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus) may leak, causing inflammation and pain.

As spinal degeneration develops, the chance of a narrowing of the foramen (cervical foraminal stenosis) and/or the spinal canal increases (cervical central stenosis). Pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness may spread into the arms or legs if the nerve root and/or spinal cord have impinged.

Other Neck Pain Causes

Emotional tension. A possible cause of neck pain has been linked to stress, worry, and a lack of social support. Inflammation may cause neck pain if a portion of the cervical spine gets contaminated. Meningitis is one such case. Tension headache relief can also reduce neck pain in some instances.

Myofascial pain syndrome. This chronic disease is characterised by trigger points caused by achy muscles and surrounding connective tissues, most often in the upper back or neck. Trigger points may be both persistently uncomfortable and intensely sensitive to touch. The pain may be localised, or it may be referred pain that travels to/from another part of the body.

Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose, although it is a  usual cause of neck pain, pain in muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the body, including the neck.

A tumour in the spine. A tumour, such as one caused by cancer, may form in the cervical spine and cause tissue damage or push on a nerve.

Spondylolisthesis. When one vertebra slides over the one below it, this condition develops. It may cause neck pain by a small vertebral fracture, ligament laxity, or severe disc degeneration.

HOW TO SLEEP WITH NECK PAIN

Neck pain is one of the most incapacitating and prevalent musculoskeletal disorders worldwide.  An uncomfortable, stiff, or aching neck may also make it difficult to sleep. A stiff neck may make it difficult to obtain a good night’s sleep. However, making a few changes to your sleeping habits may help you manage your neck pain and avoid spending hours in uncomfortable postures at night. Neck twitching left side, neck muscle spasms and neck cramps can all hinder sleep.

Your spine arches in three points by nature. It has a forward curvature at the neck and lowers back. In your upper back, it bends the opposite direction. Setting up your bed to preserve these natural curves may help you avoid neck pain symptoms.

Adjust the height of your pillow to your sleeping posture.
While there is no one-size-fits-all cushion height, you want a pillow that supports the natural curvature of your neck. Follow these recommendations for selecting the right pillow depending on your preferred sleeping position to minimise the cause of neck pain:

Back sleepers. A thin pillow may be beneficial to back sleepers. To see whether a pillow is appropriate for you, lie down on it and have a family member or friend photograph the curve of your neck. The curvature of your neck should ideally resemble that of when you are standing with excellent posture (standing tall with your head up and shoulders back). If you sleep on your back or side, you may benefit from putting a tiny roll-shaped cushion beneath your neck for extra support—or use a rolled-up towel.

Side sleepers. They usually need a bigger cushion than back sleepers to keep the neck and head in the centre of the shoulders. Your height and shoulder breadth can help decide the kind of pillow you should buy—for example, if you’re tiny, you’ll need a thinner cushion than if you’re broad-shouldered.

Stomach sleepers. Stomach sleepers may benefit from an ultra-thin pillow or from not using a pillow at all. Sleeping on the stomach puts a greater strain on the cervical spine than other sleep positions. Therefore some individuals may choose to avoid it.

Stretch your neck before going to bed.
Stretching is one of the most effective answers to how to sleep with neck pain. Stretching your neck muscles loosens them and may help alleviate pain, and the results can be improved by using a heating pad. Here’s a simple neck stretch you can do before going to bed to relax your levator scapulae muscle (the muscle that connects your neck to your shoulder blade).

  1. Sit up straight and place your hands at your sides.
  2. Raise the right arm forward and reach over the back, gripping the right shoulder blade and pressing downward. (If lifting the elbow above the shoulder is too difficult at first, skip this step.)
  3. While keeping everything else stationery, rotate the head 45 degrees to the left (about halfway toward the shoulder).
  4. Tilt the chin down until you feel a nice stretch on the rear right side of your neck.
  5. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, or as long as you can stand it.
  6. Rep on the opposite side.

MORE ABOUT NECK PAIN CAUSES

Heating Pads

Increased blood circulation may assist reduce static inflammation in chronic pain, as well as provide healing oxygen to the tissues as harmful chemicals and waste are transported away, providing calming pain relief and minimising neck pain symptoms. Moist heat has an advantage over dry heat because water transmits heat considerably better than air. In fact, wet heat penetrates 27 times more deeply than dry heat! The neck can tolerate a greater degree of temperature with wet heat than with dry heat. When moist heat is applied to a painful neck, blood flow to the region rises as the circulatory arteries expand. Applying heat treatment to persistent neck pain and stiffness may be a very cheap and easy method to receive some relief. The use of a heating pad dilates local blood vessels and improves blood flow, which may improve blood circulation in the sore or stiff region. A heating pad may warm up muscles and other soft tissues, improving flexibility and decreasing muscular tension.

Neck Pain At Base Of Skull

Occipital neuralgia is a disease in which the occipital nerves, which run from the top of the spinal cord up through the head, become inflamed or damaged. You may have neck pain at base of skull or at the back of head. Because the symptoms are similar, it is easy for people to mistake it with a migraine or another kind of headache. However, therapies, heating pads, medications, home remedies and pain reliever for such diseases vary greatly, so it's important to visit your doctor to obtain the correct diagnosis.  Occipital neuralgia occurs when your occipital nerves are pressed or inflamed, which may occur as a result of an accident, tight muscles that entrap the nerves, or inflammation. Often, physicians are unable to pinpoint the source of the problem. Neck pain at base of skull is not a life-threatening illness. Most individuals find that sleeping and using pain medication relieves their pain effectively. However, if you continue to have discomfort, see your doctor.