Many people are plagued by neck pain. By definition, it is felt in the area between the bottom of the head and the top of the shoulders. However, headaches, arm and shoulder pain, as well as upper back pain are often experienced together with neck complaints. These can appear as sharp pain, which may be limited to a small area, or achy, dull discomfort, which is generally felt across a larger area. Tightness in the muscles, often described as a knot in the tissue, may or may not be accompanied by limitations of movement. Reports of numbness and/or tingling with or without weakness into one or both arms are also often present.
There are numerous causes of neck pain, including:
Traumatic injury such as caused by a motor vehicle accident (whiplash) or falling
Muscle/soft tissue strain from activities such as heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling
Poor posture either out of habit or due to awkward or improperly set up work stations (computer use, video games, mechanic or construction work, etc.)
Degenerative changes of bone, discs or joints of the spine (often due to compromised posture over time)
Usually, the symptoms are attributed to a strain of the muscles and/or ligaments which support the spine, compression or pinching of a nerve within or as it exits the spine, or degeneration of the bones or discs that make up the spine. However, there are other structures that can cause pain in this area as well. Organs such as the esophagus and lungs, as well as the ligaments that anchor them, can spasm in response to injury or chemical irritation and cause pain, limit movement and other symptoms usually connected with the musculo-skeletal system. Protective spasms in associated structures such as arteries, veins and nerves can also cause such symptoms in the neck and upper extremities. For treatment to be successful, it is important to be able to figure out how many of these structures are causing your symptoms.