A variety of problems in your neck’s vertebrae can reduce the amount of space available for nerves to branch out from the spinal cord. Examples include:
Stiffened disks. As you age, the cushioning disks between your vertebrae become dry and stiff, narrowing the spaces in your spinal column where the nerves exit.
Herniated disks. This occurs when the inner gel-like material of a disk protrudes through the disk’s tougher outer covering. The protrusion can press on nerves exiting the spinal column, causing arm pain or weakness, or on the spinal cord itself.
Bone spurs. Arthritic joints in your neck can develop bony growths that may press on nerves.
Rear-end collisions often result in whiplash injuries, which occur when the head is jerked forward and then backward, stretching the soft tissues of the neck beyond their limits.
Neck pain can sometimes be caused by diseases, such as:
Rheumatoid arthritis. After the joints in the hands and the feet, the joints in the neck are the next most commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Meningitis. This infectious disease causes the lining of the brain and spinal cord to swell. One of the most common symptoms of meningitis is neck pain and stiffness.
Cancer. Rarely, neck pain can be caused by cancerous tumors in the spine. The cancer may have traveled to the spine from other parts of your body.