4 Causes of Severe or Chronic Neck Pain

4 Causes of Severe or Chronic Neck Pain

About one-third of Americans suffer from severe or chronic neck pain, the fourth leading cause of disability in the United States. As part of your spine, your neck contains nerves that lead to your arms, hands, and upper back, and neck pain frequently causes symptoms in these areas, too.

Diagnosing the root cause of your neck pain is the first step in relieving painful symptoms and restoring normal range of motion. At his practice in San Leandro, California, Kenneth I. Light, MD, uses advanced techniques to diagnose and treat neck pain in patients of all ages, including pain caused by these four relatively common issues.

1. Trauma

Trauma is a common cause of neck pain, especially injuries sustained from falls and in car accidents. In addition to direct impacts to the head, neck, and back, some neck pain — most notably, whiplash — can happen even without direct impact, when your head and neck snap back and forth violently.

Whiplash and other traumatic neck injuries can damage soft tissues and connective tissues in and around your neck, and they can also damage the bones that comprise your cervical spine, the part of the spine in your neck. Plus, these injuries can exacerbate other neck-related issues.

2. Herniated disc

Your cervical spine contains a series of spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. Located between each pair of vertebrae, discs keep your neck flexible and mobile. 

Normally, each disc is contained within the outline of the vertebrae. But sometimes, a disc slips out of place and extends beyond the edge of the bones. Every time you move your neck, the vertebrae can pinch or compress that disc. 

Eventually, the outer layer of the disc tears, or herniates, allowing some of the gel interior to leak out and irritate nerves. A herniated disc can cause significant neck pain, along with radiating pain and numbness in your arms and upper back.

3. Spinal stenosis

The word “stenosis” means narrowing. In spinal stenosis, the area inside your spine grows narrower, compressing nerves as they exit the spine. 

Several conditions can cause or contribute to stenosis, including wear-and-tear damage from arthritis, overgrowth of bony tissue (bone spurs), tumors, thickened ligaments, scoliosis, and other changes in the spine structure. Spinal stenosis is more common among people over age 50.

4. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis happens when a bone in your neck slips out of its normal position and shifts onto the bone below it. Like spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis is more likely to occur as you get older.

Most often, spondylolisthesis happens as a result of degenerative disc disease, a chronic condition that causes your discs to lose moisture and bulk. As the discs flatten, your spine becomes less stable, and the vertebrae are more likely to move out of their normal alignment. Traumatic injuries, osteoporosis, tumors, and some surgery-related issues can cause spondylolisthesis, as well.

Relief for your chronic neck pain

As a leading orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Light offers both conservative, nonsurgical treatment and state-of-the-art neck surgery, depending on your unique needs. To learn how he can help you find relief for your chronic neck pain, contact our team by calling 415-673-4500 today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

My Back Surgery Failed: Who’s at Fault?

Spine surgery can be a good solution for chronic back pain — but as with any type of treatment, it isn’t always successful. Failed back surgery happens when pain and other symptoms persist after surgery. Here’s why this can occur.

Is Crepitus a Sign of a Serious Neck Problem?

Have you ever stretched your neck and heard a clicking or popping noise? That’s called crepitus, and though the sounds are unpleasant, they’re not always a sign of a problem. Here’s why crepitus happens and when it’s time to see a doctor about it.

What Happens to My Range of Motion After Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion is a safe, effective way to finally put an end to chronic neck and back pain. Still, many patients worry that joining two or more vertebrae will limit their range of motion. If that’s one of your concerns, here’s what you should know.

Effective Treatments for a Herniated Disc

Herniated discs are a relatively common cause of back pain, and they can cause pain and numbness in other areas, too. Several treatment options are available that can help. Click to learn more.