Like any joint that gives you a wide range of motion, the joints in your neck are prone to injury. Spinal misalignment in your back can lead to pain in your neck, just as a misalignment problem in your neck can cause direct, localized pain or pain other areas of your body.
Another frequent cause of neck pain is muscle strain, which is often caused by poor posture, such as craning your head forward while driving or working on a computer. An injury that compresses your cervical spine can also lead to stiffness, discomfort, and chronic pain. Other common causes of neck pain include:
Whiplash is one of the most common neck injuries sustained in a fall, on the sports field, and in auto accidents — particularly in rear-end collisions. It occurs when your head is forcefully thrown back and forth, causing the quick and uncontrollable movement of your neck that makes your spine move rapidly, similar to the cracking of a whip.
Whiplash usually causes trauma to the discs, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and surrounding tissues in your neck. Although symptoms may not always appear immediately following an accident, many people who sustain a neck injury develop some symptoms within 24 hours of the trauma. Common symptoms include:
Whether you slipped and fell at work or were in a rear-end collision, it’s important not to minimize your risk of internal injury after an accident: Patients who experience whiplash symptoms soon after sustaining trauma are more likely to develop long-term, chronic neck pain if their injuries are left untreated.
What may have started out as stiff, sore neck muscles brought on by the initial trauma and inflammation can become a long-term joint, disc, muscle, or nerve problem, if it’s not cared for properly.
When you delay appropriate care, you’re more likely to experience the kind of scar tissue and spinal instability that requires routine future checkups and continued medical care. With a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, however, most patients with neck injuries recover completely in a matter of months.