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Neck Pain

A healthy neck is strong, flexible and pain-free. It keeps your head and spine in balance for good posture. Bones (cervical vertebrae), muscles and discs in the neck work together to give your head and neck their ability to move in a range of motion – forward and backward (flexion and extension), side to side (rotation), and head to shoulder (lateral bending).

There are many kinds of neck problems, which may involve a muscle, bone or disc, or a combination of these. Some neck problems may be associated with injury, aging, poor posture or emotional stress.

If you have a neck problem, you may have various symptoms; the common ones range from muscle tension and pain to numbness or weakness in your shoulders or arms. A painful neck can limit your range of motion too.

Note: Pressure on nerves in the neck can cause pain or tingling in other parts of your body. This pain (called referred pain) can reach the scalp, face, ears, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, and even the chest.

Cervical Spondylitis
With age, neck problems can occur from daily wear and tear. As discs wear out (degenerate), they become narrow and less elastic. They may flatten and allow the vertebrae to rub against each other. This can cause the formation of bone spurs, which can pinch a nearby nerve and result in pain. Degeneration of the vertebrae can also result in reduction of your neck's range of motion. This can then lead to muscle spasms which can exacerbate pain.

A worn disc may sometimes bulge or tear, giving rise to a condition called herniated disc. The damaged portion of this herniated disc may press on a nerve and cause pain or weakness in your arm. An injury or sudden movement can also cause a herniated disc.

Appropriate exercises to strengthen your neck muscles and increase mobility would be beneficial in this condition.

Mechanical Disorders
Neck pain arising from mechanical disorders is usually intermittent and related to use. Common causes include improper seating or sleeping position without adequate neck support. Neck pain is also caused by increased use of computers and poor positioning of computer screens, as well as carrying unbalanced loads, such as a heavy briefcase or a shopping bag. Recurrent pain attacks are common. Correction of postural abnormalities coupled with appropriate physiotherapy is important to help prevent recurrence of pain.

Whiplash Injury
The neck can become injured if it is forced to move past its normal range of motion. When this happens, the muscles and ligaments in the neck stretch and tear. This is called a sprain or "whiplash".

Car accidents are the main cause of whiplash injuries. Other causes include sports injuries or a fall.

With a sprain, you may feel only slight discomfort at first. But the stiffness and pain become more severe a few hours later. You may also feel pain in your shoulders, arms, hands and low back. Sometimes symptoms aren't felt until days, weeks or months after whiplash has occurred.

If your neck is injured, see a doctor right away. The first goal of your treatment plan is to relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend rest, medications, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, or injections. These non-surgical treatments are often effective in relieving symptoms. However, if your symptoms persist, you may require surgery.

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