Chronic neck pain is defined as neck pain that lasts longer than three months. The core cause of chronic neck pain usually relates to problems with a facet joint or disc in the cervical spine. Sometimes, more than one condition will contribute to chronic neck pain as one problem can cause another, especially when it’s left untreated. Chronic neck pain can be caused by many daily activities such as: neck pain from sleeping, and working behind a computer screen for too long everyday. Be careful with performing neck pain exercises because you could potentially make the pain worse. Here are five potential reasons you’re suffering from chronic neck pain to give you greater clarity:
1. Cervical Herniated Disc
Injury or aging can cause a cervical herniated disc, which is when the inner layer leaks out through the disc’s protective outer layer. The tear in the outer layer can occur from either injury or aging. The jelly-like substance in the inner layer becomes susceptible to leaking out. A herniated disc often presses on an adjacent nerve root as well, leading to neck pain. Arm pain, shoulder pain, and muscle weakness in the shoulders and arms are other possible symptoms of a cervical herniated disc.
2. Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
If a cervical disc degenerates too much, it can irritate cervical nerves. Pinched nerves, herniated discs, and changes in the facet joints can occur as a result of cervical disc degenerative disc disease. Everyone is at risk of cervical degenerative disc disease because the cervical spine naturally endures wear and tear as people age. Moreover, the discs often lose hydration and the ability to cushion vertebrae with age.
3. Cervical Osteoarthritis
Another condition you may have is cervical osteoarthritis. This occurs when the cartilage in a facet joint degenerates too much. Facet joints are supposed to glide smoothly along the cartilage, but in cervical osteoarthritis, they often grind bone on bone. The facet joint may enlarge due to bone spur growth or inflammation and thus pinch or press on nerves.
4. Cervical Foraminal Stenosis
The spinal cord has holes in the vertebral construct that allows nerve roots to branch off from the spinal cord and exit the spinal canal. When these holes, known as the foramina, narrow, it leads to cervical foraminal stenosis. Narrowing of the foramina can irritate the nerve roots. Radiating pain usually occurs with cervical foraminal stenosis. Myelopathy, weakness or coordination problems of the arms, legs, hands, or feet, can develop alongside cervical foraminal stenosis.
5. Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Another potential cause of chronic neck pain is when the spinal canal narrows as a result of spinal degeneration. A herniated disc could push into the spinal canal. Or bone spurs could grow inside the spinal canal. Myelopathy can also occur with cervical spinal stenosis if the spinal canal narrows enough to compress the spinal cord. Compression of the spinal cord, a large bundle of nerves housed inside the spinal canal, will cause problems like weakness in the limbs.
These are just five possible causes of chronic neck pain. To know what’s causing your pain, you must see a chiropractor. They will conduct a series of tests and take x-rays to see what’s going on with your spine. After reviewing your neck pain symptoms, x-rays and making a diagnosis, your chiropractor will explain what’s causing the chronic neck pain and offer to give you neck pain treatment.