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The cervical spine (bones in the neck) allows more motion than other parts of the spine, thus the neck is an extremely flexible part of the body. The problem with the neck's being so flexible is that because it moves so easily and is less protected than the rest of the spine, it is more prone to injury. For most people, neck pain is something that disappears with time, but for some it requires medical diagnosis and treatment.
Neck pain can come from a variety of abnormalities including the soft tissues, the muscles, the ligaments, and the nerves. Neck pain also can come from the bones and joints of the spine. Prolonged wear and tear causes damage to the soft tissues, and this is the most common reason for neck pain. In some people neck pain can come from problems in the back or shoulders. Rarely people will get pain from infections or tumors.
Degenerative diseases that cause neck pain include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis usually occurs in the elderly as a result of wear and tear of the joints between the bones in the neck. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes destruction to the neck joints. Both are known to cause stiffness and pain.
Cervical Disc Degeneration can also cause neck pain, because the disc acts like a shock absorber between the bones in the neck. People usually develop this after the age of 40. The disc degenerates and the space between the vertebrae narrows. Also what could happen is the cervical disc could protrude and cause pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots when the disc weakens (herniated cervical disc).
Because the neck is so flexible and it supports the head, it's very susceptible to injury. Injury occurs often in motor vehicle accidents, with contact sports, diving accidents, and falls. Sometimes in car accidents people hyperextend their neck, which is when the neck moves backwards further then the normal limit. People can do the opposite, which is known as hyperflexion, a forward motion beyond the normal limits. Fractures or dislocations of the neck can damage the spinal cord and cause paralysis.