Pain in the neck area is a very common condition affecting almost everyone at some point in their lives, and it can be caused by anything from poor posture to hunching over your desk. Neck pain is often not only a problem in itself; it can indicate a more significant problem. You should seek medical attention if your neck is painful and you also are experiencing shooting pain in your arms or shoulders, or a loss of strength or numbness in either your arms or your hands.
Since your neck can flex and must support your head’s weight, it can be susceptible to conditions and injuries resulting in pain and restricted motion. Some common causes of neck pain include:
- Worn joints – As with other parts of your body, the joints in your neck can become worn with the passage of time. The cartilage between your vertebrae can also deteriorate due to osteoarthritis. Bone spurs may then form, harming your range of motion and causing pain.
- Muscle strains – When muscles are overused, such as spending many hours over your smart phone or computer, they can become strained. Neck muscles can be strained by even minor things, like gritting your teeth or reading in bed.
- Injuries: – If you have experienced trauma, like whiplash from a car wreck, the soft tissues in your neck can become severely strained, resulting in neck pain.
Herniated Cervical Disc
A herniated or ruptured disc is another common cause of neck pain, which may also involve the shoulders or arms. If you are suffering from a herniated cervical disc, you may experience symptoms like a sharp or dull pain between your shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in your arm or shoulder or pain radiating into your arm, hand or fingers. If you move your neck a certain way, this may also intensify the pain.
It is important to get a proper diagnosis before reaching a determination on your own because cervical herniated disc symptoms may mimic those of other conditions like gout, carpal tunnel syndrome or rotator cuff problems. A cervical herniated disc may also lead to compression of the spinal cord when the disc pushes against the spine. Symptoms of spinal cord compression include difficulty with the motor skills of the arms and hands, stumbling or an awkward gait and a tingling feeling into the legs or torso.
Seeking Medical Attention for Neck Pain
If you are experiencing constant neck cracking combined with any of the following, you should seek medical attention:
- Pain or swelling – This could be an indication of osteoarthritis or something causing neck inflammation.
- Recent injury or accident – If your neck makes cracking sounds after you have been in a car wreck or accident, this may mean something has changed structurally in your neck that needs addressing by competent medical personnel.
- Frequent or constant – If your neck cracking occurs continuously, this could indicate a dysfunction in your joints, especially when it is accompanied by pain.