Neck Pain can result from a variety of causes, ranging from overuse injuries and whiplash to disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and meningitis.
Common Causes of Neck Pain Include:
• Worn Joints – Just like other joints in your body, your neck joints tend to experience wear and tear with age, which can cause osteoarthritis in your neck.
• Nerve Compression – A variety of problems in your neck’s vertebrae become dry and stiff, narrowing the space available for nerves to branch out from the spinal cord.
– Degenerative Disks – As you age, the cushioning disks between the vertebrae become dry and stiff, narrowing the spaces in your spinal column where the nerves exist.
– Herniated Disks – This occurs when the inner gel-like material of the disk protrudes through the disk’s tougher outer covering. The protrusion can press on nerves exiting the spinal column, causing arm pain or weakness, or on the spinal cord itself.
– Bone Spurs – Arthritic joints in your neck can develop bony growths that may press on nerves.
• Injuries – Read end collisions often result in whiplash injuries, which occur when the head is jerked forward and backward, stretching the soft tissues of the neck beyond their limits. This can also lead to damage of the facet joints which can cause chronic pain associated with headaches, lateral pain in the neck shoulder and upper back as well as arms.
– Rheumatoid Arthritis – After the joints in the hands and the feet, the joints in the neck are the next most commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
– Meningitis – This infectious disease causes the lining of the brain and spinal cord to swell. One of the most common symptoms of meningitis is neck pain and stiffness.
– Cancer– Rarely-neck pain can be caused by tumors in the spine. The cancer may have traveled to the spine from other parts of your body.
Tests and Diagnosis:
Your doctor often will be able to diagnose the cause of your neck pain and recommend treatment just by asking questions about the type, location, and onset of your pain. In some instances, however, imaging tests, nerve tests, or lab tests may be warranted.
• Imaging Tests – X-rays can reveal areas in your neck where your nerves or spinal cord may be pinched by bone spurs or a bulging disk. But many people, especially those over 60, have these findings and don’t experience any neck pain.
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRI’s utilize radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create especially detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and the nerves coming from your spinal cord.
• Nerve Tests – If your doctor suspects that your neck pain may be related to a pinched nerve, he or she may suggest electromyography (EMG). This test involves inserting very fine needles through your skin into muscles to determine whether specific nerves are functioning properly.
• Lab Tests – Blood tests can sometimes provide evidence of inflammatory or infectious conditions that may be causing your neck pain.
• Nerve Blocks – Nerve block procedures can be performed under live x-ray and conscious sedation to not only provide a specific diagnosis but in many cases a long-term treatment option or cure for the painful condition. These procedures are considered extremely safe with few reported complications and are almost pain-free secondary to the IV sedation.