Your neck is the upper portion of the spine, called the cervical spine. It is made up of seven small vertebrae, intervertebral discs to absorb shock, joints, the spinal cord, eight nerve roots, vascular elements, 32 muscles, and ligaments. While probably not as common as low back pain, chronic or acute pain in the neck is widespread.
Common causes of neck pain and injury include:
- Muscle strains. Neck muscles can become fatigued and strained from poor posture and from having your head slouched forward for a prolonged period of time.
- Arthritis. Neck joints, like other parts of your body, can deteriorate over time from wear and tear.
- Disc disorders. As in other areas of the spine, discs in your neck can herniate and irritate nerves, causing pain.
- Injury. Rear-end collisions and athletic injuries can cause whiplash, which stretches the soft tissues of the neck.
Neck injuries and strains often result in inflammation. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it. Ice can also help, applying it for 15 or 20 minutes at regular intervals.
If pain persists, visit an orthopedic doctor who specializes in treating back and neck problems. Treatment options that he or she may recommend include physical therapy, prescription medication, traction, and in some cases, surgery.