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The Top Causes of Neck and Back Pain

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Muscle injuries 一 especially strained muscles in which your muscle fibers overstretch 一 are common causes of both neck and back pain. Muscle injuries can occur as a result of an accident, overuse, or poor posture. The good news is that many muscle injuries tend to resolve with conservative care like rest and heat therapy, but how do you know if you’re dealing with a sore muscle or something else? 

That’s where our expert team of doctors here at Orthopedic Specialists of Oakland County comes into the picture. We know that the best treatment plan starts with an accurate diagnosis, and we encourage you to visit us if you’re dealing with neck or back pain.

In the meantime, here are the top causes of neck and back pain. 

Strains and sprains

As mentioned earlier, strains are a common injury. You might overstretch your neck or back muscles by:

  • Using improper lifting techniques
  • Looking down at your laptop or phone for hours (also known as tech neck)
  • Overuse injuries
  • Sleeping in an uncomfortable position, especially if you fall asleep with your head tilted while traveling on train or plane
  • Carrying uneven weight in a backpack or heavy purse
  • Accidents or falls that cause you to jolt your spine quickly

Not to be confused with a strain, sprains (pulled ligaments) can cause pain in your neck and back.

Herniated discs

Cushioning discs sit between the vertebrae in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Also referred to as a bulging disc or a slipped disc, a herniated disc happens when the soft, gel-like center (the nucleus) bulges through the outer shell (the annulus) of the disc. This can cause pain when the nucleus presses on or irritates your nerves.

Degenerative disc disease

Your neck and back can also hurt due to wear-and-tear on your spine. This is called lumbar degenerative disc disease if it affects your lumbar discs, and it’s often responsible for the chronic, low-level low back pain that comes and goes. If this condition causes neck pain, it’s called cervical degenerative disc disease.


Osteoarthritis is notorious for causing stiff, achy joints, and the joints in your spine are no exception. Spinal osteoarthritis develops as a result of wear-and-tear on your facet joints, which contributes to friction when you twist or bend your spine. 

To compound matters, this friction can contribute to the formation of bone spurs that contribute to radiculopathy (pinched nerves) and sciatica pain. You might suspect you have arthritis in your neck or back if you have stiffness, reduced flexibility, swelling and tenderness, and a sensation of grinding. 

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is another cause of back 一 but not neck 一 pain. Your sacroiliac joint connects the hip bones to the sacrum, a small triangular bone at the base of your spine. If your sacroiliac joint doesn’t move properly (either too much or not enough), it can cause back pain as well as hip and pelvic pain. 


If any of the vertebrae in your cervical spine or lumbar spine slide forward, the sliding bone can press on your nerves. This can cause pain and weakness. Spondylolisthesis can cause pain that radiates down your arms or legs, neck stiffness, and muscle spasms.

Spinal stenosis

If the spinal canal in your cervical spine or lumbar spine narrows, it can also cause neck and back pain. Spinal stenosis, the official name of spinal canal narrowing, can develop as a result of bone spurs or herniated discs, and it can also contribute to sciatica. 

Getting to the bottom of neck and back pain

Understandably, neck and back pain can take a toll on your quality of life, but the good news is there are many treatments available. After a comprehensive exam, a review of your symptoms, and a review of any diagnostic imaging tests, our team of providers may recommend any of the following to help treat your specific condition:

  • Injections
  • Decompression (laminectomy)
  • Discectomy
  • Spinal fusion
  • Sacroiliac joint fusion

In addition to the above treatments, our physical therapy team can create an individualized plan of stretches and exercises to help improve your range of motion and alleviate pain as well as lifestyle tips that further support a healthy spine.

Don’t let neck and back pain control your life. Call our Bloomfield Hills or Clarkson, Michigan office at 248-335-2977 to schedule your appointment. You can also use our online form or text us at 248-955-2622.

Orthopedic Specialists of Oakland County