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Neck Pain: What Are the Causes?

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Olumide A. Danisa, MD

neckpain“Oh my aching neck!”  You are not alone if you suffer from neck pain.  In fact, this complaint is fairly common.   About 2/3 of all people experience neck pain at some point in their lifetime.   Neck pain can originate from a number of different disorders, ranging from minor aches and pains to something rather serious.

Examples of such causes of neck pain include:

1)  muscle strain

2)  hyperextension injury such as whiplash

3)  degenerative neck disease caused by arthritis

4)  autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s disease, or fibromyalgia

5)  head and neck trauma including fractures

6)  infections, which can be bacterial or viral

7)  herniated cervical disc disease

8)  cervical stenosis – the narrowing of cervical bones which compress spinal nerves or even spinal cord

9)  tumors – which can be benign, or sadly, malignant.

Some associated symptoms which accompany neck pain can be shoulder pain, headaches, difficulty swallowing, neck stiffness, swollen lymph nodes, dizziness, burning and tingling sensation running down the arms, even unsteadiness or clumsiness.  For the majority of neck pain sufferers, the pain is limited (last for only a few days) and relatively mild.  Some remedies for minor neck pain are moist heat, oral anti-inflammatory medication or Acetaminophen, and rest.  Some people even try chiropractic treatments or massage.

It is important, however, to consult a doctor if the neck pain is severe, lasts for more than a few days, if you develop a fever, have difficulty with bright lights, have associated severe neck stiffness or experience “pins and needles” sensation down the arms.  It is also advisable to seek medical advice if you develop neck pain after an injury.  Your doctor will examine you, and he may order x-rays or even lab tests.  Depending on what he finds, he may prescribe medications, physical therapy or more extensive lab work.

Don’t simply ignore it.  Remember, when it comes to neck pain – you are not alone.


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