Neck pain: these are the causes

Welche Ursachen hinter Nackenschmerzen stecken können

If it’s not a long car journey or a cold draught, then hours at the computer will bring it on: that all too familiar neck pain. What else causes it and how to alleviate it.

What is neck pain?

Neck pain is usually caused by muscle tension or cramped muscles. Sometimes the pain radiates to the head, shoulders and arms. Or the discomfort leads to a stiff neck – where it’s almost impossible to turn your head and extremely painful too. The pain and tension may occur suddenly and subside after a few days, but it can also return time and time again. If it lasts longer than about three months, it's deemed a chronic condition.

Other symptoms that can occur with neck pain:

  • stiff neck
  • reduced mobility
  • pain in the shoulder and arm area
  • headaches
  • hardened muscles
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • visual impairment
  • noises in the ears

Possible causes of neck pain

One of the most common causes of neck pain in young people is muscle tension caused by poor postural positions or excess load on the cervical spine. Sometimes cold or draughts are enough to trigger neck pain. The pain can also be the result of a cold or flu. Or from lying badly in bed at night.

Causes are rarely serious

Even if neck tension has a severe impact on your well-being, it’s rarely a sign of a serious medical condition like rheumatism or a tumour. In addition, wear and tear on the cervical spine doesn’t necessarily have to lead to discomfort.

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Cases in which neck pain should be clarified by a doctor:

  • The pain lasts for a long time.
  • The tense muscles and pain are accompanied by numbness, tingling or burning in the shoulder and neck area. This could mean that certain nerves are irritated or damaged.
  • There’s reason to suspect an infectious disease such as meningitis or circulatory disorders.
  • Following a car accident or a fall. This may indicate whiplash, a slipped disc or a fractured vertebra.

Stress can trigger neck pain

We talk about someone being a 'pain in the neck' or a 'stiff-necked man': idioms like this don’t come from nowhere. People suffering from stress, worries or a psychological burden often complain of tension in the neck muscles and of neck pain. They describe it as like being clamped in a yoke, as if a weight is pressing down on them. A vicious circle can develop: the incorrect postural position is reinforced by the pain, and the pain becomes all the more tenacious. This is why it’s all the more important to reduce stress. A few simple everyday exercises are enough to help.

Bent over a mobile phone

One-sided loading, prolonged sitting and lack of exercise are further causes of neck tension and non-specific neck pain. People whose work is physical can get a stiff neck, where it’s painful to move the neck at all. The same applies to those who sit for hours in the same position at their desk or in front of a computer. Good ergonomics at the workplace is therefore important to prevent conditions like tension in the cervical spine and neck pain.

Consequences of poor neck posture

«Text neck» has now become an established term: the result of constantly looking down at a smartphone or tablet with a bent head. This promotes cramped and hardened muscles along the spine, back pain, acute neck pain and can lead to cervical syndrome.

Preventing neck pain

Not just an ergonomically designed workplace can prevent a sore neck. Neck pain and tension can also be avoided with simple and regular neck exercises and stretches. Neck massages can also help achieve a more relaxed neck.

Alleviate pain and ease tension

When neck tension and pain do occur, they can often be relieved – at least in the short term – by neck massages or home remedies such as essential oils or heat.

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