The Common Causes of Neck Pain and Stiffness, Explained

The Common Causes of Neck Pain and Stiffness, Explained

In America about 30% of people will experience neck pain or stiffness, especially if they are female.

You might experience mild symptoms, or the pain and stiffness could be severe enough to keep you from working and performing normal daily activities.

Here we will discuss some of the more common causes of neck pain and stiffness.

The Primary Causes of Neck Pain and Stiffness 

The main boogeymen for neck pain and stiffness are sprains and strains.

We often do things that can strain or sprain our necks without even knowing it.

The following causes of sprains and strains are not an exhaustive list, but these tend to be the main catalysts for non-serious pain and stiffness.

Bad Posture

Perhaps you spent the day bent over your keyboard writing an article for your website. Or perhaps you spent the night sleeping with your head at a steep angle.

Holding your head at an awkward angle for too long strains the muscles and tendons in your neck causing tears, pain, and swelling.

Heavy Lifting

You carried in a 55lb bag of dog food for fido and you felt a pinch in your neck. The next day you could hardly move your head without pain cascading into your shoulders and arms.

A New Strenuous Activity

You just moved to a northern state and had to shovel heavy snow off your walk for the first time in years. Your neck muscles weren’t used to this, leading to a strain.

Repetitive Motion

Like pulling a rubber band too many times until it breaks, if you perform a repetitive activity too long you could stress your neck muscles and tendons beyond their capacity, leading to an injury.

Injury to the Cervical Spine

A collision, head jerk, adventurous amusement ride, whiplash, a punch, or a kick, can all damage the bones, tendons, and muscles.

While these causes may not be serious, the resulting neck pain can sometimes linger and you may wish to seek chronic neck pain treatment for relief. 

Cervical Stenosis and Myelopathy

Stenosis is a narrowing of the opening in the spinal canal through which the nerves travel out to the body. Stenosis is caused by spinal discs that become less spongy over time, harden, and bulge into the spinal canals.

Myelopathy describes the condition of neck pain resulting from stenosis that has grown severe enough to push into the spinal cord, A condition that requires medical attention.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

This is arthritis of the neck. It is caused by wear and tear of the neck over time as we age. 

More than 85% of people over 60 experience this condition to some degree. Not everyone experiences pain or stiffness from this condition, and those who do have avenues of treatment in the forms of medications and physical therapy.

Herniated Disc and Degenerative Disc Disease

Over time our discs wear down and lose volume, and can potentially herniate. This happens when our discs develop cracks or tears to the point where the gelatinous inner core bursts through the annulus (the tough, outer exterior of the disc).

This bulging often leads to pressure on the spinal cord and nerves causing pain that typically will not go away without medical treatment.

Knowing What Causes Neck Pain Is Key

Understanding the causes of neck pain and stiffness will help you seek relief, and put that pep back in your step. Knowing the cause also informs you of potentially dangerous conditions for which you should seek medical attention.

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