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Pain in the Neck: Where It Comes From

On the surface, the neck does not appear to be the complex part of your body that it truly is. The neck includes seven small vertebrae and discs to absorb shock, along with joints, the spinal cord, eight nerve roots, vascular elements, 32 muscles, and ligaments. Coupled with the neck’s mobility, that complexity contributes to the chronic and acute pain and injury often associated with it.

Where does the pain come from? There are a number of causes and treatments.

  • 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 become herniated 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 pain associated with it. Ice can also help, applying it for 15 to 20 minutes at regular intervals.

If pain persists, visit an orthopaedic physician 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.

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