The most common cause of acute back or neck pain is a muscle injury, in which muscle fibers stretch too far and tear. Muscle injury may be caused by overuse, such as from heavy lifting, as well as by repetitive motions that put continual stress on the back or neck muscles.
While a muscle injury may not sound like a serious issue, the resulting pain can be severe. Most muscle injuries alleviate within 6 weeks using treatments such as over-the-counter pain medicines, heat or ice therapy, or stretching exercises.
Pain located in the neck is a common medical condition. Neck pain can come from a number of disorders and diseases and can involve any of the tissues in the neck. Examples of common conditions causing neck pain are degenerative disc disease, neck strain, osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis, spinal stenosis, poor posture, neck injury such as in whiplash, a herniated disc, or a pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy). Neck pain can come from common infections, such as virus infection of the throat, leading to lymph node (gland) swelling and neck pain. Neck pain can also come from rare infections, such as tuberculosis of the neck, infection of the spine bones in the neck (osteomyelitis and septic discitis), and meningitis (often accompanied by neck stiffness). Neck pain can also come from conditions directly affecting the muscles of the neck, such as fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica as well as from uncomfortable positioning of the neck while sleeping with the head on a pillow. Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain.
Risk factors for neck pain include injury from involvement in contact sports, motor-vehicle accidents, bull or bronco horse riding, etc. Prevention of neck pain in the context of these activities should include neck strengthening exercises and often neck bracing.
Back pain is a common reason for absence from work and for seeking medical treatment. It can be uncomfortable and debilitating.
It can result from injury, activity and some medical conditions. Back pain can affect people of any age, for different reasons. As people get older, the chance of developing lower back pain increases, due to factors such as previous occupation and degenerative disk disease.
Lower back pain may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdominal and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area.
Pain in the upper back may be due to disorders of the aorta, tumors in the chest, and spine inflammation.