Neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability in the world, with an annual prevalence exceeding 30%. It is more prevalent in females than in males.
Most episodes of acute neck pain resolve with or with or without treatment within 2 months, but nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of pain or dysfunction or have recurrent episodes 1 year after their first episode.
It’s not common to have neck pain that’s caused by tissue damage, rather factors associated with psychopathology such as depression, anxiety, poor coping skills usually overlap other features of the presentation such as sleep disorders, smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
Other factors that may contribute to neck pain may include increased mechanical stress, reduced muscle strength and motor control in the neck, shoulder blade and upper back regions.
The presence of findings such as disc bulges or joint degeneration on imaging studies such as MRI, CT scan or X-ray do not always correlate to the nature and severity of pain. The rates of radiologic ‘abnormalities’ in people without symptoms is around 60% in people in their 40s, to more than 80% in those older than 60 years.
Taking a detailed history with symptom behaviour can often provide clues about likely triggers and also help differentiate neck pain from shoulder pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, brachial plexus lesions, and upper extremity pain.