Updated: Apr 19
We’ve all coined the phrase “pain in the neck” at some point, but here we discuss true neck pain – something that can have any number of causes, but regardless of the reason, it can be debilitating.
When we talk about the neck, there are three main structures that come into play:
Bones give structure to your body, so alignment is important in minimizing stress on these structures.
The disc is a fluid-like structure that sits between each level of the vertebrae, providing a cushion when running, walking, standing, and even sitting. The disc also assists in maintaining space between the vertebrae. As we age, the disc can become less pliable and more rigid. This rigidity may affect the ability to move or endure certain positions without consequences.
Nerves are a complex network that runs from the base of your skull to your tailbone. The nerves in your neck correspond with your arms, while those in the low back correspond with your legs. Disruptions in the nervous system can lead to pain complaints. Sometimes shoulder, arm, and hand pain can result from an injury to the neck region.
There is no shortage of causes of neck pain – some preventable and others unexpected or unavoidable. Here’s a short list of the most common:
Injury (i.e., whiplash)
Health condition (i.e., meningitis and cancer)
Types of Treatment
As with any injury or condition, step one is a thorough evaluation to determine the cause and develop an individualized treatment plan. A proper assessment will include examining the entire neck area, mobility, and the level of discomfort associated with movement. Based on the resulting diagnosis, treatment often involves exercises and stretches, which can be combined with heat, ice, and medications.
In the case of neck pain, there are ways to prevent or mitigate it. Proper posture is a good start. Strengthening and improving the flexibility of neck muscles can also help, as will a number of lifestyle changes such as keeping moving, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and more.