Neck pain: it’s a real pain in the neck, isn’t it? Bad jokes aside, neck pain is a very common problem. A 2010 study found that in an average year, as many as one in five American adults experience discomfort in this area of the body. In part, this is because the neck is especially susceptible to stress, strain and injury. Knowing the five most common causes of neck tension can help you stay healthy and pain-free.

The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain

  1. Overuse of Muscle: Your neck is a remarkably easy part of your body to overwork, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk during the day. A poorly designed work area forces your neck to stay in an unnatural position for hours on end, causing unnecessary strain. Over time, this can cause chronic neck pain.
  2. Injuries: Trauma to the neck muscles can cause pain. One of the most common types of neck trauma chiropractors see is the result of traffic accidents. When your head is suddenly forced in a given direction (as can occur if a car you are sitting in is struck from behind), the following “rebound” motion in the opposition direction (also known as whiplash) injures the tissues in your neck. To help counteract this damage, your neck muscles contract, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable.
  3. Poor Posture: Do you have perfect posture when reading or watching TV? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. Poor posture might feel comfortable in the short term, but in the long run slouching can cause neck strain and discomfort. If you are obese or have weak abdominal muscles, your neck may bend forward in compensation, causing misalignment and producing pain.
  4. Diseases: Certain diseases can cause neck discomfort. Degenerative diseases are a particularly common cause of neck pain. Osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that speeds cartilage deterioration, leads to the formation of painful bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease can lead to bulging or herniated discs. Meningitis and some types of cancer can also lead to neck pain, though these conditions are more uncommon.
  5. Nerve Compression: If the nerves in your neck become compressed, neck pain can follow. Herniated discs and bone spurs are two of the most common causes of nerve compression in the neck. A disorder called spinal stenosis can also lead to narrowed nerve passageways, and therefore painfully trapped nerves.

Treating Neck Pain

Treating chronic neck pain effectively requires understanding the underlying cause of your discomfort. Consult with your chiropractor to find solutions! Depending on the situation, your chiropractor might recommend cervical manipulation, a precise adjustment to the joints in your neck that improves spinal alignment and increases range of motion. Chiropractic care is about more than just manual adjustments, though, and your chiropractor will work with you to identify lifestyle changes that can help you make sure your neck stays pain-free.