Neck pain happens when there is a problem with or injury to any of the parts in the neck, including:
- Bones – The neck has seven bones that are stacked on top of each other. These bones make up the top part of the spine and are called the “cervical vertebrae.” Neck pain can happen when the bones get worn down or develop abnormal growths (called “bone spurs”).
- Ligaments – Ligaments are strong tissues that connect bones to other bones. Ligament damage can happen when the neck moves back and forth suddenly (called “whiplash”), such as in a car accident.
- Discs – Discs are cushions that sit between the bones. When the discs change shape or move out of position, people can have symptoms.
- Muscles – Muscles hold the head up and make the neck move. Neck pain can be caused by muscle strain or tension, such as from poor posture or stress.
- Nerves – A bundle of nerves (called the spinal cord) travels down the middle of the spine. Nerves branch off from the spinal cord to all parts of the body. People can have symptoms if their nerves are irritated or pushed on by nearby bones or discs.
People can have different symptoms that include:
- Pain, stiffness, or tightness in the neck, shoulders, upper back, or arms
- Neck weakness
- Being unable to move or turn the neck
- Pain when turning or tilting the head
- Numbness or strange feelings (such as pins and needles) in the shoulders or arms
- Trouble walking or moving the legs
- Having no control over the bladder or bowels
You should see a doctor or nurse if you have:
- A severe injury to your head or neck
- Severe pain
- No control over your bladder or bowels
- Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
- Pain that doesn’t get better after you treat it at home for 1 week