There are a number of causes which may lead to neck pain including muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, diseases and injuries. Cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and meningitis may all cause neck pain symptoms. Whiplash injuries and other similar injuries may lead to neck pain. Nerve compression due to bone spurs or herniated disks may cause neck pain through compression on the spinal cord nerves. One of the most common causes for neck pain is overuse of the muscles in the neck especially through poor posture.
The most common complications from neck pain occur because the patient does not seek treatment for the underlying cause of the pain. Because neck pain can occur as a result of cervical disk damage, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondylosis and other serious health conditions, failing to seek adequate treatment can lead to a worsening of the condition and other serious side effects. For this reason, seeking medical treatment for the underlying causes of neck pain is absolutely essential.
Although neck pain is the principal symptom, many neck pain issues can present with other types of symptoms too. Neck pain can spread into the arms or upper back, can worsen with movement and can cause tenderness or stiffness in the neck. It may also cause headaches, which can last longer than a typical headache. Neck pain may also present with nerve-related symptoms due to pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerve rods such as tingling, numbness or weakness in the lumbs, burning feelings in the hand or arm, shocking pains in the hands or arms or numbness and weakness in the legs. If neck pain is associated with a loss of bowel or bladder control, seek assistance from a physician immediately.
During a physical examination, the physician will utilize imaging tests to get a clearer picture of what may be leading to the pain. This may include magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, computerized tomography or CT scan and X-ray. If these tests are inconclusive or if the physician wants more evidence, they may also perform nerve tests such as electromyography or EMG, which involves inserting needles into muscles to determine whether the nerves are functioning properly. Other laboratory tests may also help including blood tests and lumbar puncture or spinal tap, which will give some clues as to the underlying cause of the neck pain.
Neck pain treatment will vary from condition to condition and may include surgical procedures, therapies and medications. The physician may prescribe stronger pain medications than what are available over the counter as well as tricyclic antidepressants and muscle relaxants. A physician may also recommend neck stretching and exercises, short-term immobilization of the neck and traction to stretch the neck gently. Steroid injections using corticosteroid medications can relieve neck pain. Additionally, surgery may be required though it is rarely necessary for neck pain.