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Spine Surgery Guide

Causes of Neck Pain

Most neck pain is caused by activities that strain the neck. Slouching, painting a ceiling, or sleeping with your neck twisted are some things that can cause neck pain. These kinds of activities can lead to neck strain, a spasm of the neck muscles, or swelling of the neck joints. Neck pain can also be caused by an injury. A fall from a ladder or whiplash from a car accident can cause neck pain. Some less common medical problems can also lead to neck pain, such as:

  • An infection in the neck.
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck (cervical spinal stenosis).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
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Infections in the spinal column, such as meningitis, cause neck pain. This pain is accompanied by a fever and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.

Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is also known as spondylosis. As we age, parts of our bodies begin to wear down. This includes the discs that cushion the vertebrae of the spinal column. This wearing down of the cervical discs causes pain in the neck, shoulders and head. This pain is often worse in the morning when you first wake up. Your neck feels stiff and movement is painful. Sometimes this is accompanied by arm pain.

Cervical Herniated Disc
A herniated disc is also referred to as a ruptured disc or slipped disc. This occurs when the gel-like center of the disc breaks through its fibrous outer layer. This causes compression of nerves that result in a tingling pain. This pain progresses slowly and is associated with tingling down the arm, difficulty coordinating arms and legs and some trouble with fine motor skills. The neck pain associated with a cervical herniated disc is sharp and comes in sudden bursts.

Cervical Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is also associated with age. Over time, the cartilage in the joints wears down, causing a dull aching pain in the joint. This neck pain is usually worse in the morning and in the night than during the day. The pain often flares up on cold, damp days. This pain often lessens when you are moving your neck.

Infections in the spinal column, such as meningitis, cause neck pain. This pain is accompanied by a fever and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.

Muscle Strain
There are many muscles in the neck that can get injured or strained. This strain can be caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall or car accident. It can also be caused by normal everyday activity. Repetitive motions or holding your neck in the same position for long periods of time can cause this pain. This pain is sometimes a dull constant ache or can be a sharp pain associated with certain head movements.
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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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