Why is Your Neck in Pain?

The bones, ligaments, muscles and other structures of the neck are susceptible to injury and wear and tear. A comprehensive evaluation can help you get the answers and relief you need when you’re dealing with chronic neck pain.

Why Is Your Neck in Pain?

Neck pain can have a wide variety of causes, such as craning the neck down while looking at a laptop or cell phone. In many cases, neck pain is the result of degenerative changes to the vital structures of the neck and spine. 

While chronic neck pain is more likely to affect older adults, it can occur at any age. If you’re dealing with neck pain that doesn’t seem to go away on its own, or goes away only to return, an evaluation by a spine specialist can help get to the bottom of what’s causing your symptoms.

Here at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, Dr. Thomas Jones II and our team of spine specialists help patients with spinal issues get to the root of the problem, obtain pain relief, and improve their functioning. Here we discuss three of the most common causes of chronic neck pain.

Cervical degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease that occurs in the upper (cervical) spine is the most common cause of neck pain. The cervical spine is made up of small bones that give support to your neck.

The vertebrae of the spine have cushioning discs that absorb shock and prevent the small bones of the spine from rubbing together. These gel-like discs have a high water content and enable the neck to move, turn, and flex without pain.

In patients with cervical degenerative disc disease, the discs have broken down and lost hydration. Cervical discs naturally lose some fluid as you age. However, in patients with degenerative disc disease this happens at a faster rate. Without enough hydration, discs can tear and crack, leading to further breakdown.

Degenerative disc disease can occur in any of the discs but is more likely to affect the C5 and C6 vertebrae. These are the lower most discs of the neck where the neck meets the shoulders. This is the area of the neck that experiences the most wear and tear when you move your neck.

Herniated disc

Disc herniation occurs when the discs of the cervical spine rupture through a weak area of the outer wall. The gel-like disc material can squeeze out and press against nearby nerves and other structures causing pain, numbness, and tingling. The resulting irritation of the nerves can cause inflammation and swelling, adding to your symptoms.

Injury or age-related breakdown of the spinal discs are typical causes of herniated discs.

Cervical spinal stenosis

When narrowing of the spinal canal occurs, it’s called spinal stenosis. It’s referred to as cervical spinal stenosis when it occurs in the neck. In spinal stenosis, the narrowing compresses the spinal cord and often the nerves that branch off into the neck.

When spinal nerves in the neck are compressed, common symptoms are:

The pain may radiate into the shoulders and down the arms. This may impact the sensation and function of your upper body. Patients may experience weakness and reduced flexibility of the arms and upper body.

As it advances, spinal stenosis can compress the spinal cord, causing serious problems with balance and making it difficult to walk.

Age-related degeneration or “wear and tear” is the most common cause of cervical spinal stenosis. It can also result from injury or trauma to the spine.

Conditions such as osteoarthritis and bone spurs increase your risk of developing spinal stenosis.

If you’re living with symptoms of neck pain, numbness, tingling, and decreased mobility, we can help. To learn more, schedule a visit with Dr. Jones at one of our offices in Houston, Pearland, or Lake Jackson, Texas, by calling to speak with one of our team members today. You can also request an appointment here on our website.

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