The spine is made up of 33 bones which are called vertebrae, which are stacked one on top of another to form a column.
There are seven bones in the neck which are called cervical vertebrae. In between the bones are discs of gristle cartilage, also known as intevertebral discs. The sides of the bones are linked by facet joints. There are also many ligaments and muscles which are attached to the spine and fan out from the neck to the shoulder blades and back.
The muscles in this area control movements of your head. The spine protects the spinal cord from outside damage while still allowing you to move your head in any direction.
There are also nerve roots which branch out from the spinal cord at the level of each disc. The nerve roots in the neck join to form the nerve trunks that run into your arms.
Impulses travel along these nerves and then send sensations such as touch and pain to the brain and messages from the brain to the muscles.
The vertebral artery carries blood from the heart to the brain which run inside the bones of the spine and supplies this part of the brain which controls your balance.
There are a number of different reasons for neck pain. You could just develop a ‘stiff neck’ after sitting in a draught or twisting badly. Cervical spondylosis is when the discs become thinner due to everyday use. You can also get ‘bone spurs’, knows as ostephytes that just grow out of you spine.
Occasionally bulging discs or osteophytes pinch the nerve roots as in my case, which can cause pain or numbness into your arm. I have one in mine which is shaped like a hook and gives me a lot of pain down an arm. These can be shaved to release any pain but due to my previous neck surgeries its not an option for me.
Whiplash is another injury to your neck which is quite common following a rear-end collision in a car.
Neck pain can be felt in the middle of your neck or on one side or the other. It may travel to your shoulder and shoulder blade or even to the upper chest. If a nerve root is pinched then its also possible that you will have some numbness or tingling that is felt down the arm and into the fingers.
First port of call for any of the above should be your GP or even A&E to check it’s nothing more sinister and then it will probably follow on with physiotherapy treatment and/or pain medication.