Most people do not realize how much they move their neck during the day until they are unable to do so. The degree of flexibility of the neck coupled with the fact that it has to support and move your 14-16 pound head, means that the neck is very susceptible injury. You can picture your neck and head much like a bowling ball being held on top of a stick by small, thin, elastic bands. It doesn’t take much force to disrupt that delicate balance.
The spinal cord runs through a space in the vertebrae to send nerve impulses to every part of the body. Between each pair of cervical vertebrae, the spinal cord sends off large bundles of nerves that run down the arms and to the upper back. This means that if your arm is hurting, it may actually be a problem in the neck. Symptoms in the arms can include numbness, tingling, cold, aching, and “pins and needles”. Problems in the neck can also contribute to headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back, ringing in the ears, otitis media (inflammation in the middle ear, often mistaken for an ear infection in children), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), restricted range of motion and tightness in the neck and upper body.
Neck injuries can be caused by a fall, a car accident, sports injuries, accidents at work or at home, carrying a heavy book bag, sleeping on a different pillow or even a hard sneeze. Any sudden movement of the head, either backwards, forward, or sideways, that result in damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back can cause pain, stiffness, numbness or headaches.