According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one in three Americans experience some type of neck pain every year, and about half of those have chronic discomfort. What are the common causes of neck pain, and how is the cause properly diagnosed?
The Common Causes of Neck Pain
As a general rule, most pain or discomfort in your neck stems from one of these conditions:
- Degenerative disc disease—You may experience a gradual deterioration of the fibrous tissue that provides cushioning between the vertebrae in your neck. This can be the result of a medical condition, repetitive stress or motion, or merely aging.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—RA is a disease that compromises the body’s immune system, specifically causing trauma to joints, tissue, and organs. It commonly appears in the upper neck and involves inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and loss of mobility
- Herniated cervical disc—Your cervical discs are located in your neck. A hernia involves a bulging or rupture of the fibrous tissue that serves as a cushion for your vertebrae. A hernia can stem from traumatic injury or be the result of the normal wear and tear of aging. Symptoms of a herniated disc include tingling, numbness, or a painful burning in your neck.
- Cervical stenosis—A stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can putpressure on nerves and vertebrae. Signs of stenosis include neck pain that radiates into your upper extremities.
- Cervical spondylosis—Spondylosis results from the deterioration of bones or cartilage in and around your neck. Warning signs include radiating pain and stiffness in your neck.
Determining the Cause of Neck Pain
Though many types of neck injury can be diagnosed through a physical examination, your doctor might also conduct bone density tests, MRI or CT scans, X-rays, or blood analysis.