Neck pain is not uncommon, and may result from a variety of disorders, injuries, and diseases of any of the tissues in the neck. Causes of neck pain (Cervicalgia) associated with injury include whiplash, cervical disc herniation with or without nerve compression, spinal stenosis, and arthritis of the neck joints. Increased risk factors for injury include contact sports, horseback riding, weight lifting, and motor vehicle collisions.
Your neck pain may manifest in different ways, depending upon the etiology. There may be pain that increases with movement of your neck. Neck movement may be severely limited by muscle spasm or strain. Sharp, shooting pains are not uncommon. Any inflammation around the nerves that leave the spinal cord through the cervical spine may result in numbness or tingling in the arms or shoulders, or sometimes even into the fingers. Headaches may be the result of compression of a cervical nerve root to the back of the head (cervicogenic headache).
Once the etiology of your neck pain has been determined, treatment can begin. Before considering surgery, realize that there are multiple non-surgical measures that you can take to obtain relief of pain. Options for treatment of neck pain depend upon its origin. Application of heat or cold, traction, physical therapy including ultrasound, massage, and manipulation may all improve your symptoms, and help strengthen the muscles in the neck. In cases of inflammation or sprain, local injections of corticosteroids can be helpful. Analgesics, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and topical anesthetic creams or patches are often very useful in treatment of neck pain. With chronic neck pain, a cycle of inflammation is usually involved, and reinjury occurs because of the maladaptive postures we assume to try to relieve strain. Physical therapy, coupled with anti-inflammatory medications and injections, may break that cycle.
Other causes of neck pain result from disorders of the muscles of the neck, and include polymyalgia rheumatic and fibromyalgia, which cause pain that is chronic in nature. Simply neglecting good posture can put strain on inappropriate muscles, causing quite severe symptoms, which often recur over time.
Rarely, infectious causes of neck pain can be as mundane as viral pharyngitis, with swollen lymph glands, but bone infections may occur in the cervical spine. These infections can spread to bone (osteomyelitis) or discs (discitis). Meningitis causes neck stiffness characteristically, and it is an infection of the meningeal tissues lining the spinal cord.