Neck Pain Explained: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

Neck pain can range from annoying to debilitating, depending on the severity. If you’ve ever woken up with a stiff neck, you’d be aware of just how important the neck is and how often you use it. Every turn of the head requires the neck, and can be painful if you have an injury or other health problem. Neck pain can last from a matter of days to multiple years, says the Cleveland Clinic. It’s also fairly common, according to the article, with one in three people experiencing some type of neck pain each year.

The causes for neck pain can range from wear and tear related to aging, all the way to traumatic injury. A doctor can help if you have neck pain, and there’s a variety of treatment options that depend on the severity of your neck problems. Rather than looking at it as a problem caused only by injury to the neck, scientists are beginning to look at it from different angles. A study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders explains that neck pain is multifactorial, and is a major problem in society.


Anatomy of the neck

The spine is long and curved. There are 24 vertebrae that make up the spine, broken down into three sections. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the first section is made up of seven vertebrae starting at the top of the spine, which is the base of the skull. It’s called the cervical spine, which forms the base of your neck. On top of the spine are ligaments and muscles that provide stability and motion.

Your spinal cord runs through the spine, inside the vertebrae. Parts of it branch out from the vertebrae into other parts of the body. These little branches are called nerve roots. They are nerves that carry messages between the brain and muscles. Between each vertebra in your neck is a soft, gel-like disc called an intervertebral disc. These discs act as shock absorbers for the bones in your spine.