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Alternative namesPain - neck; Neck stiffness
Neck pain may originate from any of the structures in the neck. These include muscles and nerves as well as spinal vertebrae and the cushioning discs in between. Neck pain may also come from regions near the neck, like the shoulder, jaw, head, and upper arms.
When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving it, especially to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck.
If neck pain involves nerves (for example, significant muscle spasm pinching on a nerve or a slipped disc pressing on a nerve), you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere.
Common neck pain is from muscle strain or tension. Usually, everyday activities are responsible. Such activities include bending over a desk for hours, having poor posture while watching TV or reading, placing your computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising.
Traumatic accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries like vertebral fractures, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, and even paralysis.
Other causes include a herniated disc, fibromyalgia (pain syndrome throughout the body), and arthritis. Meningitis, although much less common, can cause significant neck stiffness.
For minor, common causes of neck pain:
Call your health care provider if
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask detailed questions about your neck pain, such as:
If the pain is felt due to muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant and possibly a more powerful pain reliever. Prescription drugs are not necessarily better than over-the-counter medications. The doctor may prescribe a neck collar or, if there is nerve damage, refer you to a neurologist or neurosurgeon for consultation.
If meningitis is suspected, you will be sent to an emergency department for further tests, antibiotics, and hospital admission.
If a thyroid condition is considered (due, for example, to a lump in the front of your neck), follow-up care for abnormal blood tests will be needed.
Update Date: 9/17/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Boston, Ma., and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. and David Webner, M.D., Department of Family Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT