If you suffer from upper back and neck pain, you are not alone! Millions of people have pain in their back and neck that can limit lifestyle and physical activities. You may take for granted that you can move your neck a great deal until that one day that you cannot.

Have you ever thought about how flexible the neck must be to hold your head all day, not to mention how heavy your head is? Your neck must support an average of 15 pounds, and it does not take much to disturb this difficult balance. Your upper back and neck work together to provide support, and most of the muscles that the neck attaches to are in your upper back. This is why problems in the neck throw off your neck as well as your upper back. Your spinal cord sends nerve impulses to your body, which means that pain in your arms could also be related to problems in your neck and upper back. Neck problems can contribute to TMJ and headaches, along with many other symptoms.

Most pain in the upper back and neck region is brought on by a combination of reasons. Here are the top 8 causes of upper neck and back pain:

1. Whiplash injury- One of the of the common types of neck injuries, whiplash is caused by a sudden backwards, forwards, or sideways movement of the head. This is usually the result of a car accident or sports injury, and it involves damage to the ligaments, supporting muscles, and other connective tissues in the upper back and neck. Sometimes symptoms of whiplash take weeks to show themselves, so it is best to seek treatment after the accident or injury to avoid further damage.

2. Bad posture- While this seems trivial, poor posture can be a definite cause of neck and back pain. Hunching forward for a long period of time (such as at a desk) can contribute to pain that can manifest into a bigger problem if not addressed. Poor posture can also lead to headaches and lower back pain. When standing, lift your head and chest, keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Roll your shoulders back and keep your neck straight. Be sure to support your back and keep your head in a neutral position to help with sitting posture.

3. Subluxations- These are caused by an altered position of the vertebra due to the hard work of the neck holding up the head. Those with subluxations who sit at their desk a lot might notice that their head sits forward from their shoulders. Subluxations are common but can be treated with simple stretching as well as work place modifications to improve posture.

4. Stress- Continuous high levels of stress lead to a contraction of your neck and upper back muscles. While this is a survival response to protect yourself against injury, the contraction of these muscles occurs in daily life during stressful situations. Reducing the level of stress in your life can lessen pain and add years to your life. You can practice breathing exercises and meditation to de-stress. Regular exercise can also help to relieve daily stress. Also, be sure to eat well and get lots of fresh air.

5. Herniated disc- When the discs in your cervical spine are herniated, they bulge and put pressure on the nerves that exit from the spine. Cervical discs are especially prone to herniate when they sustain damage from a whiplash injury.

6. Inactivity- Lack of exercise is another top cause for upper back and neck pain. Sitting for long periods of time with poor posture can greatly contribute to your pain. On the flip side, using the wrong technique during exercise can also lead to upper back and neck pain if you are not careful.

7. Joint dysfunction- The ribs connect with the vertebrae by two joints that connect with each side of the spine, and dysfunction in these joints can result in upper back pain. This is usually remedied with manual manipulation and exercising.

8. Medical conditions- Many medical conditions can be causes of upper back and neck pain. These can include a slipped disc, a trapped nerve, arthritis, rheumatism, infections, circulatory disorders, and congenital disorders.

There are many causes of neck and upper back pain and these are just a few of the more common issues seen today. Start taking care of you back now and it will keep you happy and pain free for years to come.