Diseases & Conditions
Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over a steering wheel, often
triggers muscle strains. Neck muscles, particularly those in the back of
your neck, become fatigued and eventually strained.
When you overuse
your neck muscles repeatedly, chronic pain can develop. Even such minor
things as reading in bed or gritting your teeth can strain neck muscles.
Arthritis. Just like all the other joints in your body, your neck
joints tend to deteriorate with age. If you have ever had whiplash,
you're six times as likely to eventually develop arthritis in your
Disk disorders. As you age, the cushioning disks between your
vertebrae become dry, narrowing the spaces in your spinal column
where the nerves come out. The disks in your neck also can herniate.
This means the inner gelatinous material of a disk protrudes through
the disk's tough covering. Nearby nerves can be irritated. Other
tissues and bony growths also can press on your nerves as they exit
your spinal cord, causing pain.
Injury. Rear-end collisions often result in whiplash injuries, which
occur when the head is jerked forward and back, stretching the soft
tissues of the neck beyond their limits.
When to seek medical advice
Muscle irritations are usually easy to self-diagnose. They typically
come on after excessive activity, a period of overuse or prolonged
postures that put excessive strain on your neck muscles. But they
usually get better on their own within a few days to a couple of weeks.
If the pain doesn't let up within a week or two, see your doctor.
see your doctor if the following signs and symptoms occur in conjunction
with neck pain:
Severe pain from an injury. After head or neck trauma, such as
whiplash or a blow to your head, see your doctor immediately. Severe
pain over a bone might indicate a fracture or an injury to a
Shooting pain. Pain radiating to your shoulder, through your
shoulder blades or down your arm, or numbness or tingling in your
fingers, may indicate nerve irritation. Neck pain from nerve
irritation can last from three to six months or longer. Because
serious problems may occur after continued nerve irritation, see
Loss of strength. Weakness in an arm or a leg, signaled by dropping
things, walking with a stiff leg and shuffling your feet, indicates
the need for immediate evaluation.
Change in bladder or bowel habits. Any significant change,
especially a sudden onset of incontinence, could indicate a neurologic problem.
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