Your neck can move freely forwards, backwards and sideways. Twisting
is the only limited movement in the neck (cervical) region, and
this is compensated for by the freedom of rotation in the thoracic
region immediately below. The necks forms the main support for your
skull, so its movements allow you to turn your head, so that you
can see in various directions, or move your head away from danger.
Your shoulder movements co-ordinate with your neck movements, because
of the muscular links. The muscles may hold your neck still, for
instance when you extend your arms in shaping up for a dive. Or
your neck may move at the same time as your shoulders, as when you
serve in tennis, turning your head to watch the ball as you throw
Like the rest
of the spine, your neck encloses and protects your spinal cord,
which emerges from your brain through a hole in your skull, and
then extends downwards in the canal formed by the bone struts at
the back of the vertebral blocks.
joint disease can cause pain in the neck joints. You can have neck
pain related to certain viral infections. Influenza often causes
aching and stiffness on one or both sides of your neck. Pain can
be referred to your neck from internal regions, such as your diaphragm
or breathing muscle.
You can hurt
your neck through a sudden traumatic injury, for instance if you
hit your head in a fall from a height, or if your head or neck is
wrenched. This type of accident can happen in sports like riding,
gymnastics, diving, rugby, judo and boxing. If the injury is severe,
and there is a chance that the neck might have broken, the victim
must be kept still, as there is a risk of total paralysis. For less
severe strains, you can apply ice to relieve the worst of the discomfort.
If possible, the neck should be supported, for instance by a folded
newspaper wrapped around it and held in place by a towel or scarf.
You should then refer to your doctor or local casualty department
as quickly as possible, in case you need to have X-rays taken.
Your neck can
also be injured by gradual, overuse strains. Too much strain on
your neck muscles through a long bout of tennis practice, throwing
the javelin, archery or hand-stands in gymnastics can cause this
type of gradually increasing pain. The actual damage may vary from
an injury to one or more of the neck joints, involving a strain
or tear in ligaments, joint capsule, or small muscle, to gross damage
to one or more of the discs. The muscles over the damaged joint
usually go into spasm to protect the joint from more harm, and you
feel tightness and soreness in the trapezius on the injured side.
Occasionally, neck joint problems happen following an injury to
the neck muscles, because the injured muscle, becoming taut, pulls
against the joints and distorts them. Accurate diagnosis of neck
injuries is a matter for the specialists, and the problem should
be treated, before you try to resume your sport.
injury, your specialist may recommend you to do specific neck exercises,
to make your neck joints stronger and more flexible. Once you have
recovered, you should include some neck exercises in your warm-up
before doing sport, and, if possible, as a general daily routine.
At no stage should you do any movements which cause pain, during
or after the exercise.
While your neck
is painful, your specialist may give you a supporting collar to
wear, made of hard or soft material.
As in the rest
of the spine, a neck problem can cause referred symptoms. You may
feel pain, tingling or numbness down your arm into your hand. The
symptoms may form a continuous line down your arm to your hand,
or only one part of your arm may be affected, in which case it may
be more difficult to relate the symptoms to your neck problem. A
ligament strain, or minor damage to a disc, will cause intermittent
referred symptoms, which you can relieve by altering the position
of your neck, perhaps stretching your neck away from the affected
arm. A major disc problem causes unremitting pain. In either case,
you should ask your doctor for specialist help, and you should not
do any sport or strenuous activities until you have recovered.
dizziness can also be caused by neck problems, either through spasm
in the neck muscles, or because your injury is interfering with
the flow of your circulation between your vertebrae.
arthritis can happen in the neck joints, causing pain in your neck,
with or without referred symptoms in your arms. It is important
to maintain as much mobility and strength in your neck as you comfortably
can, while avoiding stressing the joints with heavy loading or strenuous
sports. Your doctor will advise you on the type and amount of exercise
you should be doing, on the basis of your symptoms and the changes
visible on your X-rays.
While dull aches can be annoying and even ignored, severe pain or
pain accompanied by other symptoms may indicate a serious underlying
disease that requires medical attention. If you have any of the
following symptoms associated with pain in your neck, you are urged
to seek medical assistance:
- Fever — May indicate an infection.
- Frequent, painful or bloody urination — May indicate a kidney
- Leg pain traveling down to or below the knee — May indicate a
possible disc problem.
- Numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of bladder or bowel control
— May indicate a nerve or disc problem.
- Persistent pain that hasn't improved and can not be relieved —
May indicate a serious back disorder or injury.