Occasional neck pain might not bother you if you’ve become used to it. A few quick stretches could temporarily relieve your discomfort, but ongoing pain is likely a sign of something more concerning than having muscle tension after sleeping in the wrong position. Check out eight conditions that might be causing neck pain to start a helpful conversation with your doctor.
Poor Posture at Work
Most people work on computers every day. Sitting at a desk and staring at a screen might not seem like the perfect recipe for neck pain, but it’s a common culprit of discomfort. Slouching may lead to straining and put intense pressure on your spine. Try sitting straight in an ergonomic desk chair with your shoulders back to see if it eases lingering neck tension.
Osteoarthritis Due to Aging
You might think of your hands when you picture arthritis, but it can also affect your neck. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the joints in the neck by deteriorating the cartilage between each vertebra, causing the bones to grind against each other. Your doctor will be able to rule out or provide this diagnosis by inspecting your neck for swelling and performing flexibility tests.
Spinal Stenosis Progression
Aging can cause spinal stenosis, which reduces space for nerve endings within your spine. Many people feel pinched nerve pain from their neck into their limbs or an electric sensation that feels like mild burning.
After providing a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend learning about different forms of stretching to make yourself comfortable. Static stretching that doesn’t require strained muscles or intense pressure is an easy way to relieve tension while sticking with your physician’s treatment plan.
Whiplash After an Accident
Have you been in a fender bender recently? Even a slow-moving car accident at a stop sign can cause whiplash that leads to neck pain. It depends on how the accident happened and if your neck tensed in response to the impact. Whether you’ve experienced a minor and major car crash, visit your doctor to get ahead of potential whiplash or develop a stretching routine to treat recurring pain.
Newly Developing Temporomandibular Disorder
You may have heard of the temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), but people often overlook temporomandibular disorder (TMD). It’s a condition with numerous potential causes, such as:
- Grinding or clenching your jaw at night
- Inflammation of the jaw joints
- iPrevious jaw fractures
Although the pain begins in your jaw, it can radiate down your neck and back due to prolonged tension. Treatments could involve physical therapy, medications or lifestyle changes, depending on the advice provided by your ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor or a dentist who specializes in jaw disorders.
Undiagnosed Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common conditions that might be causing neck pain. People with this diagnosis have an immune system that attacks the lining of their joints. It most commonly begins in hand and finger joints, but may migrate to your neck. Your doctor can identify the inflammation and recommend medication to ease your pain and make daily life more comfortable.
Developing Cancerous Tumors
When people picture a growing tumor, they often imagine a large lump that’s obviously out of place and requires medical attention. Depending on where the cancer develops, it may cause intense pain before it’s large enough to spot with the naked eye.
Sometimes cancerous tumors begin to grow in the neck. If they attach to ligaments or discs, any amount of growth will cause noticeable pain. Your doctor may recommend a CT scan to rule out cancer if physical therapy and medication don’t relieve your pain. You should also consider this possibility if cancer is more common in your family.
Inflammation Caused by Meningitis
Meningitis occurs when people get a virus or bacterial infection from being close to an infected person who coughs on them or kisses them. Sharing dining utensils, cigarettes or even a toothbrush can also spread this disease. The primary symptoms normally present as a lack of energy, nausea and a fever, but it can turn into neck pain if you contract the viral form of meningitis.
Someone with a weakened or compromised immune system may be more susceptible to meningitis inflammation that causes neck pain. Doctors commonly advise that patients wait out the virus, but they could provide antiviral or antibiotic medication depending on which type of meningitis you have.
Learn More About Neck Pain
There are many conditions that might be causing neck pain, so visiting your doctor is critical. They’ll know all about these causes and others that could create your discomfort. Temporary treatments, medications or long-term physical therapy could improve the quality of your daily life by reducing or eliminating neck pain permanently.