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Neck Pain Causes

Neck pain

Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures in the neck. These include the muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), and the disks between the bones. The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments and muscles provide stability to the spine. These muscles allow for support and motion.

The neck supports the weight of the head and is responsible for a significant amount of motion. Because the neck is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck can be vulnerable to injuries that produce pain and can drastically limit motion.


  • Whiplash - An injury to the soft tissues of the neck from a sudden jerking or "whipping" of the head. This type of motion strains the muscles and ligaments of the neck beyond their normal range of motion.
  • Arthritis - Cervical Spondylitis is Arthritis of the Neck. Like the rest of the body, the bones in the neck (cervical spine) slowly degenerate as we age. More than 85% of people over age 60 are affected. Although it is a form of arthritis, cervical spondylitis rarely becomes a crippling or disabling type.
  • Muscle strains - Overuse such as too many hours hunched over a desk/computer, often triggers muscle strains. Sleeping in a position that strains the neck, such as with a pillow that is too high or too firm. Even such minor things as reading in bed or gritting your teeth can strain neck muscles.
  • Nerve compression - Herniated disks or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck can take up too much space and press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
  • Diseases - Neck pain can sometimes be caused by diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer.

Home Care

  • For minor, common causes of neck pain:
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Apply heat or ice to the painful area.
    • One good method is to use ice for the first 48 - 72 hours, then use heat after that. Heat may be applied with hot showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad.
  • Stop normal physical activity for the first few days to reduce inflammation.
  • Gently stretch the neck muscles. (up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear)
  • Gently massage the sore areas.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow.
  • Use a soft neck collar to relieve discomfort.

When Should You Seek Medical Care?
If severe neck pain occurs following an injury (motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall), medical care should be sought immediately.

If there has not been an injury, you should seek medical care when neck pain is:

  • Continuous
  • Severe
  • Accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms or legs
  • Accompanied by headaches, numbness, tingling, or weakness

Many patients seek orthopedic care for neck pain.  The Become Pain Free orthopedists are specifically trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent problems involving the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons our Become Pain Free specialist treat a wide variety of diseases, injuries, and other conditions, including neck pain. Call us today at (214) 396-3647 to find the treatment that is right for you.

to find the treatment that is right for you.

The most common types of neck pain usually respond well to home care. If neck pain persists, your doctor may recommend other treatments.

  • Medications
  • Physical Therapy
  • Traction
  • Surgical Procedures
  • Steroid injections

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Basic Anatomy of the Spine

Spinal Pain To understand spinal pain, we need to understand the basic anatomy of the spine. The spine is composed of strong bones, large muscles, flexible tendons and sensitive nerves. The spine is designed to be very strong and flexible, protecting our nerve endings while at the same time providing great mobility. You can experience spinal pain when the spine's nerves are irritated, the muscles are strained, injury or a slipped disk. We will have a brief overview of the anatomy of the spine to help target the source of your pain. The cervical spine. This is your neck area. The cervical spine is comprised of seven bones and supports our heads and protects the nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body. Pain in this area is usually associated with strained muscles or ligaments from stress or other minor injuries. Common pain does not usually require medical attention and can be alleviated with acetaminophen and ice or heat. If your pain lasts longer than two weeks or is accompanied by arm pain, numbness or tingling, this is an anatomical problem and could be signs of a herniated disk. The thoracic spine. The upper back is composed of 12 bones that attach to the rib cage, providing stability and support. There is very little ability for mobility in this area of the back. The thoracic spine is designed for protection of the vital organs in this area of the body. Injuries to this part of the spine are very rare, but extreme muscle strain could cause pain in this area. If you are suffering an injury to this area of the spine, contact a doctor immediately. The lumbar spine. The lumbar spine, also known as the lower back, carries the weight of our upper bodies. This area of the spine is the most frequently injured. The upper disks of the lumbar spine are prone to wear and tear, thus a concern for osteoarthritis, while the lower disks are more likely to herniate. Though a cause for concern in later years of life, the lumbar spine mostly is a source of pain caused by muscle strain. The sacral region. This is the bottom of the spine, a single bone shaped like a triangle that connects the spine to the lower half of our bodies. Pain in this area is more common among women and is usually prone to bruising. Become Pain Free is the area's most diverse, comprehensive network of physicians whose sole purpose is to relieve every patient's pain. Call us today for an appointment - (214) 396-3647 or (888) 373-3720

Note: The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physician. Neither BPF Specialty Hospital, or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.