Neck pain can seemingly start unexpectedly. You may be driving home from work, and notice that your neck is achy, and your upper back is feeling tight. Maybe you are having trouble falling asleep at night or getting into a comfortable position. Perhaps you notice that one day, out of the blue- you begin to have weird symptoms like numbness and tingling into your arms and hands. Well, the origins of neck pain can be frustrating, but there is always a reason behind it. Neck pain can be due to muscle pain and tightness, changes in the joints and bones, and even issues related to the discs. Although sometimes it's hard to discern where the pain is coming from, looking at symptoms can help you understand where it is coming from. Examining your daily activities such as neck posture or a recent event such as a car accident can also be helpful in diagnosing where the neck pain is coming from.
The neck is made up the cervical bones, the discs in between, ligaments and capsules that hold everything in place and muscles that surround all the structures. Changes to any of these things can cause neck pain, neck stiffness, limited range of motion, and changes in sensation and weakness, just to name a few.
For example, an injury to a cervical disc such as a C4-C5 disc bulge can cause pressure to put on the C5 nerve root. This can cause severe neck pain, numbness and tingling, weakness in the muscles, and changes in reflex in the upper extremity. A disc bulge can occur with an injury to the neck . As you can see changes to the disc whether a herniation or a bulge can cause many symptoms in the neck and in the upper extremity.
Other changes that can take place include changes in the joints. The spaces between the bones of the neck. Changes such as bone spurring, and the appearance of osteophytes which are bony outgrowths. Degenerative changes such as these can cause pain over time and also cause limited range of motion in the neck. Often times, degenerative changes take place over many years.
Finally, neck pain can be attributed to muscles that surround the neck. Muscles such as the cervical paraspinals, trapezius , suboccipitals, sternocleidomastoid , scalenes, longissumus capitis, splenius cervicis, to name a few. An injury to the neck muscles is known as a strain, and it can cause muscle spasms, muscle tightness , tender points, and limited range of motion. When injuries occur to the ligaments in the neck, that is known as a cervical strain. Muscle injuries can occur with overuse activities and also whiplash type injuries .
As you can see, neck pain can be coming from the muscles, the ligaments, the joints or even a disc issue Understanding the different components of the neck can help you understand that neck pain can be complicated in its origins.