Some of the most common causes of chronic neck pain include muscle strains, overuse due to poor posture, and ligament damage. These are all examples of “non-specific” neck pain, where a serious disease isn’t present. Whiplash is another common cause and is often the consequence of a sudden vehicle collision. Arthritis and a herniated disc may also result in chronic neck ache. Other potential causes include general wear and tear, infections, and in some cases cancer.
Diagnosing the cause of chronic neck pain can often be difficult because it is an area that contains a large number of important arteries, nerves, and muscles. If there is no disease or illness causing the pain, it is often referred to as non-specific neck pain. This type of pain can become chronic in some cases, although it usually clears up naturally. A few of the most common potential causes of chronic non-specific neck pain include damage to muscles and ligaments or poor posture. People who sit at a desk all day, for example, often develop chronic neck pain.
There are, however, a number of specific chronic neck pain causes. Whiplash, for example, occurs when a large amount of force “whips” the neck. This is often the result of a vehicle collision. When whiplash occurs, it is common for the ligaments, muscles, and other structures in the neck to become damaged.
Arthritis is another potential cause of chronic neck pain. This is a degenerative condition that can affect any joint in the body. When arthritis occurs in the neck, it can also cause compression of nerves resulting in more pain. Osteoarthritis usually affects older people and is often located in a single joint, while rheumatoid arthritis can affect many joints at the same time.
A common cause of chronic neck pain is a herniated disc. When a disc in the neck becomes herniated, it bulges outwards. This can put excess pressure on nerves, leading to discomfort in the neck or shoulder. Other symptoms of a herniated or slipped disc include numbness, pins and needles, and weakness.
There are a number of other potential causes of chronic neck pain. General wear and tear to the upper spine, which is common in older people, sometimes causes discomfort. Other, more severe, conditions such as cancer and infections may cause chronic neck pain in some cases. If a person suffers from a severe impact injury, the vertebrae or nerves in the neck can also be damaged.