The neck

The neck supports the weight of the head and is highly flexible, allowing the head to turn and flex in different directions.
Neck pain is very common. It is estimated that almost 1 in 3 people are affected once a year, women more often than men. The symptoms are usually harmless and go away on their own after a while. But they might keep coming back again. The pain becomes chronic in about 1 out of 10 people who have recurring neck pain. There is often a link between neck pain and tense muscles, for instance after working at a desk for a long time, being exposed to a draft, or sleeping in an awkward position.

Neck pain can have many different causes. These include:

  • Weak and overused neck muscles: sitting at a desk for a long time – particularly in awkward positions with slightly tensed muscles – can cause pain and stiffness in the neck or shoulder areas, and sometimes headaches too. If your neck and core muscles are weak, physical activities such as cycling or swimming breaststroke can also lead to muscle-related problems.
  • Wear and tear of the joints in the cervical spine: over the course of a lifetime, different signs of wear and tear can arise in the neck area of the spine. For instance, the gaps between the vertebral bodies may shrink and small bone growths (spurs) may form along their edges. This is called osteochondrosis. Osteoarthritis of the joints between the neck vertebrae is called cervical spondlyosis. But wear and tear is generally a normal part of growing older. Although this can lead to reduced neck mobility, it rarely causes neck pain.
  • Spinal disk changes: spinal disks are also subject to wear and tear. The tissue becomes brittle and less elastic, so it can't absorb pressure as effectively. Sometimes spinal disk tissue then bulges out.
  • Whiplash: it is an injury that might arise in a road accident. The impact of the collision causes the cervical spine, the tendons and muscles to jerk back and forth rapidly. This usually leads to small injuries in the muscle and connective tissue, painfully tense muscles, and limited mobility for several days. These symptoms typically go away completely after a short time.
  • Narrowing of the vertebral canal, or a bulged disk: if the vertebral canal is too narrow, or if spinal disk tissue bulges or leaks out and puts pressure on a nerve root, it can cause neck pain that radiates into a shoulder or an arm.
Neck pain also sometimes accompanies inflammatory conditions of the spine, jaw joint problems or severe headaches.

However, it is often not possible to find a clear cause of neck pain: wear and tear can, but does not always, lead to pain. The bones, tendons, and nerves in the cervical spine are also usually too close together to be able to determine exactly what caused the symptoms in the first place.

If no specific cause can be found, it is called "non-specific neck pain." It is often particularly hard to determine the cause of chronic neck pain. Usually taking holistic approach is more useful, looking at the whole body not concentrating only at the painful area.
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