Information for Patients
Neck Injuries and Disorders
Any part of your neck - muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, or nerves - can cause neck problems. Neck pain is very common. Pain may also come from your shoulder, jaw, head, or upper arms.
Muscle strain or tension often causes neck pain. The problem is usually overuse, such as from sitting at a computer for too long. Sometimes you can strain your neck muscles from sleeping in an awkward position or overdoing it during exercise. Falls or accidents, including car accidents, are another common cause of neck pain. Whiplash, a soft tissue injury to the neck, is also called neck sprain or strain.
Treatment depends on the cause, but may include applying ice, taking pain relievers, getting physical therapy or wearing a cervical collar. You rarely need surgery.
Intervertebral disc disease Intervertebral disc disease is a common condition characterized by the breakdown (degeneration) of one or more of the discs that separate the bones of the spine (vertebrae), causing pain in the back or neck and frequently in the legs and arms. The intervertebral discs provide cushioning between vertebrae and absorb pressure put on the spine.While the discs in the lower (lumbar) region of the spine are most often affected in intervertebral disc disease, any part of the spine can have disc degeneration. Depending on the location of the affected disc or discs, intervertebral disc disease can cause periodic or chronic pain in the back or neck. Pain is often worse when sitting, bending, twisting, or lifting objects.Degenerated discs are prone to out-pouching (herniation); the protruding disc can press against one of the spinal nerves that run from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. This pressure causes pain, weakness, and numbness in the back and legs. Herniated discs often cause nerve pain called sciatica that travels along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the length of each leg.As a disc degenerates, small bony outgrowths (bone spurs) may form at the edges of the affected vertebrae. These bone spurs may pinch (compress) the spinal nerves, leading to weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. If the bone spurs compress the spinal cord, affected individuals can develop problems with walking and bladder and bowel control. Over time, a degenerating disc may break down completely and leave no space between vertebrae, which can result in impaired movement, pain, and nerve damage.