Common neck problems to watch out for

Common Neck Problems and What to Watch Out For

Many adults in America will suffer from neck pain at some point in their life. The pain usually goes away with rest or treatment, but for some people, the pain can continue and interfere with daily activities and reduce the individual’s quality of life.

The causes of neck pain fall into four broad categories:

  • strain and injury
  • degenerative diseases
  • as part of other diseases
  • a symptom of acute illness

Let’s walk through each of these categories…

Neck Strain and Injury

Poor posture, overuse, and injury from accidents can make it moderately or acutely painful to move the head and may result in constant pain. People who habitually carry their head forward, as in staring at computer screen or at hand-held electronics, strain the muscles in the back of the neck. Cradling a telephone between the head and shoulder, carrying unbalanced backpacks, keeping the head turned or in an awkward position for long periods, poor sleep positions, and jerking the neck during exercise can also put a lot of stress and strain on the neck’s muscles and ligaments.

Whiplash is neck strain caused by sudden back and forth movement of the head, commonly during rear-end automotive accidents. Whiplash can also be the result of sports injuries or falls. 

Degenerative Diseases

As with bones and joints elsewhere in the body, the neck bones and joints can deteriorate as people age. These diseases include:

  • cervical spondylosis, or arthritis of the neck
  • ankylosing spondylitis, or arthritis of the spine
  • herniated disks
  • osteoporosis
  • spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spaces in and between the vertebrae

Spinal stenosis can lead to a pinched nerve. Depending on the nerve, stenosis in the neck may cause pain or weakness in the arms, chest, or shoulders. There are non-surgical treatments for pinched nerve but severe cases may require surgery.

 Other Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer can also manifest in the neck. Treating these diseases can help relieve pain overall and maintain function.

Acute Conditions

Sudden pain in the neck can be a symptom of:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • meningitis

Usually, there will be other symptoms as well. But, if you’re in doubt, go to the nearest emergency room.


Keep your neck pain-free by employing good everyday posture, doing gentle neck stretches and exercises, and avoiding holding awkward head positions for long periods. Head restraints in cars and defensive driving are effective at preventing whiplash.

However, if your neck pain isn’t going away, our team at Progressive Rehabilitation Medicine in Cedar Rapids offers non-surgical options for treatment. Contact us today at (319) 774-8143 for a consultation. We’ll put you on the path to recovery!