Seek medical attention if neck pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands, or if you have shooting pain in your shoulder or arm. Muscle strains, sprains and tears are one of the most common catalysts for neck pain. Healthy muscle tissue is made up of numerous muscle fibers grouped together to form a single muscle; within each of these fibers are bundles of myofibrils (bundles within bundles) that house the contractile proteins that perform the real mechanics of muscle contraction. When the muscle is too extended, small tears can form in one or more of these connective tissue layers, weakening the muscle and causing pain.
The worse a muscle strain, the worse the inflammation in the muscle, leading to more swelling, pain, and a longer recovery period. Over time, tight and sprained muscles in the neck and shoulders can develop hard knots, called trigger points, that are sensitive to touch and cause more muscle pain and pain. A muscle spasm is the sudden, spontaneous and painful contraction of a muscle. When this occurs in the neck, you may experience pain, tightness, and an inability to move your head in one or more directions.
When people say they wake up with pain and stiffness in their necks, it's likely the result of muscle spasm. While there is often no clear cause for muscle spasms, they can be the result of injury to a muscle or spinal disc or nerve problems; sometimes, they can even be caused by emotional stress. Muscle tension or spasms in the neck can cause headaches, which are usually felt in the back of the head and upper neck. The pain from a neck-related headache is usually described as dull or aching, accompanied by stiffness and tenderness in the neck.
Unfortunately, moving the neck will usually make these headaches worse, so people are usually forced to rest until they go away. Nerve pain in the neck is very difficult to describe. Each vertebra serves as an exit point for one or more nerves that branch from the spinal cord. Inflammation or anatomical damage near these exit points can pinch, affect, or irritate nerve roots, causing pain that can be described as sharp or dull, fleeting or constant, and accompanied by burning or tingling sensations.
Depending on the nerve affected, pain may shoot down the arm or even into the hand and may worsen with general movement or with specific movements. Referred pain is pain that is triggered in one part of the body, but appears in another. The classic example of referred pain is shoulder pain during a heart attack. In the neck, pain can stem from the heart, esophagus, and other seemingly unrelated organ systems.
Therefore, it is very important for a doctor to determine the underlying cause of your neck pain, as it could be a sign of a much deeper and more serious problem if it stems from another part of the body. Most neck pain arises from injuries and diseases of the soft tissue structures of the cervical spine. However, it is possible that the bones themselves also hurt. Pain and tenderness in the cervical vertebrae are much less common than soft tissue neck pain, but it requires immediate medical attention because it could indicate a more serious health problem.
In addition, bone pain could be a sign of bone weakness or fracture, destabilizing the cervical spine and potentially putting the spinal cord at risk. Should I see a doctor for my headaches? What type of headache do I have?. Neck pain can be caused by arthritis, disc degeneration, narrowing of the spinal canal, muscle inflammation, strain, or trauma. Rarely, it may be a sign of cancer or meningitis.
In case of serious neck problems, a primary care physician and often a specialist, such as a neurosurgeon, should be consulted to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe treatment. When pain is experienced in a location other than its source and is not caused by nerve root irritation, it is called referred pain. Neck pain caused by muscle tension or strain usually goes away on its own within a few days and, at most, needs only conservative treatment. To develop an effective treatment plan, it is essential to understand the different types of neck pain.
Neck pain can take a variety of forms, from dull, irritating pain to debilitating, burning nerve pain that can radiate down the shoulder and into the arm. Neck pain can result from a number of disorders or diseases that affect any of the tissues of the neck, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, or muscles. Most causes of neck pain are not life-threatening and resolve with time and treatment. Mild stenosis can be treated conservatively for long periods of time, as long as symptoms are limited to neck pain.
The neck is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially in falls, car accidents, and sports, where the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move out of their normal range. You may have axial pain in your neck (mostly felt in your neck) or root pain in your neck (pain shoots to other areas, such as your shoulders or arms). Funicular pain is another type of pain related to the spinal cord and can occur when the ascending tracts of the spinal cord (the spinothalmic tracts or posterior spine) become compressed or irritated. Neck pain may be mild and may not interfere much with your activities or daily life, or it may be severe and cause disability.
However, being able to clearly describe the symptoms of your neck pain will help your care team better understand what you are experiencing and increase your chances of being able to help you. Conversely, a pathology in the neck can cause referred pain in other parts of the body, most commonly headache, shoulder pain, or upper back pain. Although a large percentage of patients with neck pain report significant pain relief after surgery, there is no guarantee that surgery will help everyone. This procedure can help strengthen and stabilize the spine and, therefore, can help relieve severe and chronic neck pain.
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