It should come as little surprise that neck pain is a common medical complaint. Your neck is responsible for supporting and balancing your head, which weighs about as much as a bowling ball. It also provides the most movement of any body part, allowing you to turn your head in many directions. The neck, or cervical spine, is made up of a complicated network of bones, nerves, joints, and muscles which are controlled by the brain and the spinal cord. The neck is designed for strength, stability, and to allow nerve communication. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae and a pair of facets joints at each level that allow the movement in your neck. Additionally, each level of your cervical spine sends a pair of exiting nerves through your spinal canal, on each side of your body. These exiting nerves travel into your shoulders, arms, and your hands.
Neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, shoulders, arms and your hands and may manifest in several different ways. Neck pain can be localized to one area as a sharp or stabbing pain, can cause soreness or tenderness, or it can cause pain, numbness, or tingling that radiates down your shoulder, arms, and hands. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck. While most neck pain is due to a quick turn or bend, or your neck being held at an odd angle for a long time, there are many problems that can cause pain in your neck. Additionally, irritation of the spinal cord or exiting nerves along their pathways can also cause pain. Irritation of the spinal cord can cause pain into the legs and other areas below the neck.