Neck pain is a problem commonly treated by physical therapists. It can limit your ability to fully move your head and look around. If a nerve that travels down your arm is being pinched in the neck, it may cause shoulder pain and weakness in your arm.
There are many different problems that can cause neck pain:
Arthritis. Arthritis generally occurs as part of the aging process. Each bone in your neck connects with another neck bone via a joint, and these joints may experience wear and tear over time, possibly becoming arthritic. This could be one cause of neck pain.
Herniated or Bulging Disc. The soft, spongy cushions between your neck bones are like small jelly donuts between the vertebrae. Occasionally the jelly-like material in the central part of the disc pushes out of place and may then irritate nerves in your neck, or those traveling down your arm. These bulging or herniated discs may be the cause of pain.
Disc Degeneration. The discs between the bones in your neck may suffer from wear and tear, just like the joints in the neck. This may cause pain in the neck and limit your ability to move the neck.
Spinal Stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the canal where the spinal cord is located becomes narrow, potentially pinching the spinal cord. Cervical spinal stenosis may cause cervical myelopathy, a very serious condition that warrants an immediate visit to your doctor.
Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when trauma forcefully moves your neck through extreme ranges of motion. Trauma like a motor vehicle accident or sports injury is likely to cause whiplash. If you've suffered trauma and suspect you have whiplash, see your doctor right away. He or she can perform special diagnostic tests to ensure that your neck is not in danger of serious damage or injury.
Unknown. Sometimes it's impossible to tell exactly what is the cause of neck pain. Even if you have advanced diagnostic tests like an MRI or CT scan on your neck, your doctor or physical therapist may still not be able to pinpoint a single cause of neck pain.
Caution should be used when obtaining these diagnostic tests. X-rays and MRIs often show multiple problems, or they may not show any problems at all. This means that your MRI may show a bulging disc even when you don't have any pain. Other times, your MRI may show no abnormalities, and you may still be experiencing neck pain.
If you are experiencing neck pain, don't panic. Most episodes of neck pain decrease significantly in just a few days. Simple exercises and postural correction can often be performed to help decrease your pain significantly. A visit to your physical therapist may be in order for a full neck examination and to ensure that you get the proper treatment.