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Causes of Neck & Cervical Spine Pain

By Jamie Simpson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Neck and cervical spine pain can be serious. Some patients may experience pain from compressed nerves or stiffness. This pain can be a sign of a serious issue. The Mayo Clinic states that pain in the neck and spine should be reported to a doctor, especially if it is accompanied by changes in bladder or bowel control or weakness in the arm or legs. New pain, neurological pain or pain that has no relief may be a sign of a serious problem.

Neck Injury and Strain

Neck injuries may result in stiffness, soreness or reduced range of motion. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the neck is flexible and prone to injury. A driving accident, sports injury or fall may cause neck injuries. It is quite common for rear-end collision motor vehicle accidents to cause a common neck injury known as whiplash, when the neck is flexed too far forward or backward.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also says that neck injuries usually occur in the soft tissue of muscles and ligaments. Far more severe injuries can result in dislocation or fracture of the neck, which can lead to paralysis. Either type of injury can cause extreme pain. Medical help should be sought for either type of injury.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can lead to a weakening of the cervical spine as well as neck and shoulder pain, though pain is not always a symptom. In spinal stenosis, the nerves in the spinal cord are compressed. The Mayo Clinic states that spinal stenosis can be age-related and caused by osteoarthritis, disk degeneration or thickening of the ligaments that hold the spinal bones together. According to the Mayo Clinic, other causes of spinal stenosis include Paget’s disease, where bone is regenerated faster than normal, and achondroplasia, where bone deforms and results in dwarfism. The Mayo Clinic also states that spinal trauma or tumors can cause spinal stenosis.

Cervical Spondylosis

As the body ages, it deteriorates in many ways. Arthritis may result, and arthritis in the neck is called cervical spondylosis, according to the American Academy of Othopaedic Surgeons. More than 85 percent of people older than 60 are affected. Disk degeneration, where the spinal disks lose water with age, can cause this disease.

Other Illnesses or Diseases

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause neck and cervical pain. This is an autoimmune disease where the body essentially attacks itself, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It can cause extreme pain and stiffness in the neck. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also states that neck and spine pain may be caused by tumors, infections or congenital abnormalities. These conditions are less common.

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