Neck Pain Causes
Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS
Neck pain affects everyone, irrespective of age and gender. It can be painful andfrustrating, making daily chores difficult. Various factors, such as injury, wrong posture, degenerative diseases, etc., can cause neck pain. However, the good news is that it is usually easy to manage with the proper medication and care.
In this article, we will explore the various causes of neck pain in general and focus on the reasons for neck pain in women.
How to understand Neck pain
The role of our neck is mainly to hold the head in place and allow for its movement.These movements, as we know, are vital for everyday activities.
The neck is a complex structure of seven cervical vertebrae (bones), intervertebral discs, nerves, and muscles. They work in sync to allow a wide range of motion. The intervertebral discs absorb any shock due to sudden movements. When this intricate balance is disturbed, it leads to pain and discomfort.
It is commonly seen in adults and increases with age. Women have a higher chance of developing neck pain.
Neck pain may be felt only in the neck (axial pain) or spread to involve the head, shoulders, and arms (radicular pain).
Your neck pain may be a continuous ache, a stabbing or burning pain, or a shooting pain that radiates to the shoulders and arms.
It may be acute (lasts for a few days to weeks) or chronic (lasts for a few weeks to months), depending on the underlying cause.
Other symptoms that you may notice along with the neck pain include:
The location, type of pain, and other symptoms are due to the underlying cause of neck pain.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain is a common symptom of many underlying conditions affecting the head and neck. It could be a result of poor posture, an injury, or debilitating conditions like arthritis.
1. Poor Posture
Poor posture is the number one cause of neck pain in children and adults. This poor posture may be a result of:
Poor posture causes overuse of the neck muscles, leading to muscle strain and pain. These effects are more pronounced with age.
The bones, ligaments, and muscles in the neck may all degenerate with age. The intervertebral discs may dry out and lose their cushioning effect. The bones of the vertebral column may thicken with age. This condition narrows the spinal canal and is called cervical stenosis. This presses the spinal cord, which runs through the
spinal canal, causing pain and numbness.
3. Mental Stress
Prolonged psychological stress is a known factor in neck and shoulder pain. People tend to unknowingly tense their neck and shoulder muscles when under stress and realize this only when their neck hurts.
4. Degenerative conditions
Conditions such as osteoarthritis and cervical spondylosis affect the joints and intervertebral discs. The bones of the spine may fracture due to osteoporosis. The resulting neck pain appears to increase with age.
5. Hernia of intervertebral discs
A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of an intervertebral disc ruptures and presses on nearby nerves. This can cause radiating neck pain along with tingling and numbness in the arms.
Overexerting or stretching the neck and shoulder muscles due to excessive exercise may strain the neck muscles. Accidents, falls, and whiplash injuries (common in automobile accidents) may damage the neck muscles and spine, leading to severe neck pain.
7. Tumors and Cysts
Tumors and cysts in the neck can exert pressure on the nerves in the area and cause pain in the head and neck region.
8. Other health conditions
Underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, cancer, etc. may also be a reason for neck pain and headaches.
Causes of Neck Pain in Women
While neck pain can affect everyone, studies have shown that women experience it more than men. This could be a result of certain unique risk factors and triggers.
Women of most ethnicities are usually shorter than men. However, the heights of kitchen slabs, desks, and chairs at home and work are not designed according to the needs of women. It worsens their posture and leads to muscular pain in the neck and back. They take longer breaks, and this decreases their efficiency.
2. Hormonal changes
The fluctuation of estrogen, or the female sex hormone, is known to affect the perception of pain in women. This is observed during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Women may feel more pain during these phases.
3. Carrying heavy purses
Most women are in the habit of carrying oversized purses with miscellaneous items. These heavy shoulder bags are designed to be carried on one shoulder and may, over time, affect posture and cause muscle stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
4. High heels
High heels are one of the many banes for women who are trying to fit into the stereotypical beauty standards laid down by society. Besides that, some professions expect women to wear high heels for long hours to look more presentable. However, wearing high heels changes the center of gravity, and the body has to overcompensate for the altered posture.
5. Breast size
Large breasts alter posture and increase the strain on the neck and shoulders.
Osteoporosis affects women more commonly, especially after menopause. It weakens the bones, including those of the neck, which may fracture and cause severe neck pain.
Management of Neck Pain
1. Do the following to reverse the damage due to poor posture:
2. Nutrition-rich food and regular health checkups can slow down the degenerative effects of aging.
3. If you have identified stress as the reason for your neck pain, you can:
4. Consult a healthcare professional if the underlying reason for neck pain is
another medical condition.
Many factors can cause neck pain. Although women are slightly more prone to neck pain, it can affect anyone. However, we can minimize its impact on our lives by consciously maintaining proper posture, making healthy lifestyle choices, and consulting a healthcare professional when needed.