What is neck pain? What are common causes and risk factors for neck pain?
Neck pain is a symptom commonly associated with dull aching. Sometimes pain in the neck is worsened with movement of the neck or turning the head. Other symptoms associated with some forms of neck pain include numbness, tingling, tenderness, sharp shooting pain, range-of-motion difficulties, fullness, difficulty swallowing, pulsations, swishing sounds in the head, dizziness or lightheadedness, and lymph node (gland) swelling.
Neck pain can also be associated with symptoms such as headache, facial pain, shoulder pain, and arm numbness or tingling (upper extremity paresthesias). These associated symptoms are often a result of nerves becoming pinched in the neck. Depending on the condition, sometimes neck pain is accompanied by symptoms such as upper back and/or lower back pain, as is common in inflammation of the spine from ankylosing spondylitis.
There are seven vertebrae that are the bony building blocks of the spine in the neck (the cervical spine) that surround the spinal cord and canal. Between these vertebrae are discs, and nearby pass the nerves of the neck. Within the neck, structures include the skin, neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph nodes, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx, and trachea. Diseases or conditions that affect any of these tissues of the neck can lead to neck pain.
Doctors who treat neck pain can include general medicine physicians, including family medicine doctors and internists, as well as orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, ENT specialists, emergency physicians, physiatrists, and chiropractors. Other ancillary health professionals who treat neck pain include physical therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.