Surprising Causes of Neck Pain

If you think about all you ask your neck to do — twist, bend, turn, and hold up your head, which weighs about 10-11 pounds — it’s not hard to understand that you might have a few aches and pains now and then. Your neck, also known as the cervical portion of your spine, contains many bones, ligaments, tendons, discs, muscles, and nerves all working in unison to offer the range of motion you need to look over your shoulder, flip your hair, or gaze up at the stars. If you damage any of those delicate parts or have inflammation in the area, you’re bound to feel pain.

At Capital Brain and Spine, Dr. Desh Sahni treats patients throughout the greater Austin, Texas, area for neck conditions including herniated or degenerated discs, cervical stenosis, arthritis, auto and sports injuries, and soft tissue damage. If you have any of these conditions, you know exactly why your neck hurts. But what if you have neck pain with no clear medical condition to blame? 

Dr. Sahni specializes in discovering the source of your neck pain and helping you understand its causes. Here are a few surprising reasons your neck may be hurting.

Technology

You may not realize how much time you spend looking down at your smartphone, laptop, or tablet, so it might surprise you to learn that the average American spends over three hours with their head bent over an electronic device. Every time you bend your neck at a 45-60-degree angle to look down at your device, it compounds the weight of your head. So from your neck’s perspective, it’s like holding up a 50-60-pound bowling ball. It doesn’t take long for that to take a toll on your neck. We call this “tech neck.”

The strain on your muscles causes immediate pain, but over time, you’re putting yourself at risk for reduced mobility, accelerated degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis.

Limiting your tech time, changing the angle of your neck while viewing screens, and incorporating stretches and exercises to break up your tech sessions can all help prevent or ease your symptoms.

Alcohol

We’ve all had one of those nights where we sleep in a position that causes stiffness in the morning. That generally happens if you don’t change positions periodically throughout the night. 

If you drink heavily, your muscles become very relaxed and your body tends to stay in one position all night, which puts excess strain on your muscles. 

And if you happen to have too many pillows or pillows that are stiff and have no give, you may find that pose you struck when your head hit the bed put your neck at an unnatural angle. Bottom line: if you go to bed intoxicated, expect a neck ache with that hangover.

Smoking

If you’re thinking it’s a stretch to blame neck pain on tobacco, think again. Smoking has a ripple effect on your body that directly impacts your neck.

Smoking dehydrates your discs in your neck. These are the cushiony little buffers between each vertebrae. When they’re healthy, they’re filled with a gel-like fluid that keeps them plump and helps absorb shock and maintain space between your bones. Smoking robs them of that essential fluid and deteriorates the discs. 

Another way smoking can make your neck hurt is by constricting and hardening your blood vessels that carry precious oxygen to the area. Your spine is reliant on this constant flow of blood and oxygen to regenerate cells and keep the tissues healthy; smoking is notorious for restricting the process. 

The best thing you can do for your neck pain and your overall health is to quit smoking.

Slouching

Your mother was right — don’t slouch. Whether you’re sitting at a computer all day or a person on the move, hunched shoulders put excess pressure on your neck and other portions of your spine. 

Without proper support in your desk chair, your body will eventually sag into a C-shaped curve that strains your muscles and puts you at the wrong angle for viewing your screen. Proper posture no matter what activity you’re doing is critical to your spinal health — including your neck.

Treating your neck pain

Regardless of what’s causing your neck pain, we can help. From muscle strains to herniated discs, we begin with the most conservative treatments first. Sometimes your neck pain can be resolved through physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. We also offer steroid injection, acupuncture, and chiropractic care to bring you pain relief. 

If you have a pain in your neck, call us at 512-361-1165 or use our online tool to request an appointment. Together, we can get to the bottom of your neck pain and relieve you of it.

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