Neck Pain (Cervical Spine)
Information on this page about Neck Pain
Anatomy of the Neck
Causes of Neck Pain
Your Neck connects and supports your head (skull) to the rest of your body. It is in the region of the Spinal column known as the cervical spine. The spinal column protects your spinal cord which, along with the Brain constitutes the central nervous system (CNS).
In simple terms the CNS is the "hub" for your body, this is where electrical impulses are received and given meaning from the external and the bodies internal environment, it also tells your body how and when to move along with moderating your bodies internal environment to maintain your bodies homeostatic control.
The cervical spine (Neck) is made up of 7 small bones called vertebrae. These are stacked on top of each other and where the surfaces meet each other, form facet joints. Along with these joints and surrounding muscles / tendons and ligaments it allows stable head movement in a diverse range.
In between the vertebrae shock absorbers know as intervertebral discs are found. These structures can be of clinical significance in many neck and back conditions.
Other structures in and around the neck include
Arteries and veins
Neck pain can be present if there is disease of these tissues or organs.
With the neck having a diverse range of motion, pain and flexibility issues can be easily felt when issues begin. The list of how neck pain can begin is extensive. The most common ones are as follows
Muscular strain or Tension to the Neck
prolonged periods of poor posture can add strain to the localised neck tissues. Examples of this are sleeping in awkward position, slouching whilst on along car journey or whilst on the computer.
Anxiety Neck Pain
If you are a anxious person you tend to tense yourself up frequently, during more intense periods you will tense your muscles up even more. If you perceive yourself to be under more stress than usual your neck muscles may cause more tension to your neck. The more your muscles tense up the more pain and discomfort you will feel in your neck and shoulders. This may also affect the range of motion in the neck.
If Neck Pain is caused by Anxiety please go to
Conditions that cause Neck Pain
(trauma) Whiplash to the Neck
Due to the range of motion the neck can achieve, it can cause issues when the forces developed in impact or whipping injuries ask the neck to move past its normal range of motion at excessive speed, this puts excessive stress through the tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs and bones). In severe cases these tissues can either tear or in the case of bone become fractured. This process can occur during road traffic accidents (RTA's) which is more commonly known as whiplash. It can also occur during sporting activity or falls.
Degenerative changes of the Neck (wear and tear)
Unfortunately a natural part of life is the degenerative changes that occur throughout the body as you get older. Discs in between the Vertebrae start to degenerate and become flatter and elongate as they loose disc height, this process can be called Spondylosis. The flattening of the discs cause bone spurs develop on the edges of the Vertebrae's main body, this is the bodies natural attempt to stabilize the area. Due to the loss of height in the Discs it causes the Vertebrae to rub against each other, in turn this causes irritation that can lead to wear and tear (osteoarthritis) in the joints
Diseases that can cause Neck pain
Signs and Symptoms of Neck Pain
There are common diseases and rare diseases which can also cause Neck pain.
Common infections to the throat or ear can affect the Whole head and neck area. If the infection is severe enough it can cause the lymph nodes in the neck to swell, this also causes neck pain.
More serious conditions that can cause Neck pain include
Cancer of the head / neck
Conditions that can cause pain in the area of the Neck and Shoulders can be
Seronegative Spondyloarthropathies such as Ankylosing spondylitis
Most common signs and symptoms of Neck pain are
Pain and Stiffness
Pain described as a dull ache or sore in and around the Neck / head area. This may become more intense or sharp on movement.
This pain my also refer into the shoulders and be associated with headache symptoms.
This describes the grinding, clicking or grating noises in and around the neck. It occurs when the surfaces of the bone rub against each other in arthritic conditions, or in the facet joints of the neck which can become swollen and inflammed after injury / trauma.
The noises associated with crepitus can be intensified due to the location of the cervical spine being next to the ears.
In most cases Crepitus itself is painless although may be unsettling. If Crepitus becomes painful it may suggest a fracture of the bones where the fragments may be rubbing against each other.
Muscles located around the neck can suddenly spasm, this can be present in such conditions like Torticolis where the spasm can occur down one side of the neck. This causes the Neck to twist and become limited in range of motion due to the tightness and pain.
Muscle tension may also exist if there is an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis or facet irritations.
Stress and anxiety can also increase muscular tension.
In some conditions of the neck Neurological symptoms may develop. These are normally described as pins and needles, numbness, tingling and shooting sensations which can travel down the arm. This is due to the sensory part of the nerve becoming affected.
Accompanying these symptoms patients may experience weakness and loss of function of the limbs. As an effect of this, atrophy may also be seen in the corresponding affected muscles. This is because the motor side of the nerve has become irritated.
The reason for these symptoms is due to the nerves becoming irritated through the compression from the tissues surroundings them.
Diagnosing your Neck Pain
To establish an accurate Diagnosis your Healthcare professional will review the symptoms you present with and History of the condition. In most cases a thorough investigation into the case history can leave some possible conditions. Simple, orthopaedic tests will be performed to identify the condition. In most cases no further investigation will need to be performed although, In some cases if the cause of Neck pain is still undiagnosed, further investigations will be requested, these may be in the form of scans (MRI scans, X-rays, CT scans) which can take images of the structure of the tissues, blood tests can also be used to rule out rule out some of the serious Neck conditions.