How Back Pain and Neck Pain are Related

How Back Pain and Neck Pain are Related

Neck and back pain are very common complaints.  Both are typically caused by something happening with the spine or the muscles. 

Did you know that both of these are connected, and therefore, connects back and neck pain?


Many people who have one will have the other (back or neck pain).  The good news is that working to alleviate one will also help to alleviate the other.

An effective way to relief neck pain is with >> Neck traction

Conditions and Injuries that Affect Both the Neck and the Back

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition and the most common condition to affect the joints.  This includes the joints throughout the spine.  Pain and stiffness are the most common back and neck issues associated with osteoarthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that can cause both neck and back pain.  This is caused by an autoimmune response.  The joints become severely inflamed and painful.  The joints in the neck and back can be affected.

Lupus can cause muscle inflammation.  This muscles in the back can become stiff and go into spasm.  While it is rare, inflammation of the spinal cord can also occur with lupus, causing pain.  Lupus has to be medically treated.

Degenerative disc disease is a condition characterized by a spinal disc being compromised.  This can be a disc in the neck, or the area of the spine spanning the back.  This is a rather common condition that tends to start occurring around ages 30 to 50.  After a person passes age 60, this is actually no longer considered a disease, but a normal part of aging.

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal is narrowed.  This can affect the neck and mid-back.  Regardless of where the narrowing occurs, it is possible to experience pain throughout the entire back.

Strains and sprains mean that muscles, ligaments or tendons were overstretched or torn.  Pain can be rather widespread from each of these.  For example, if a sprain occurs in the neck, the pain can sometimes radiate down the arms and throughout the back.  This is especially true if a large muscle is sprained.  A strain can have a very similar effect. 

A herniated disc can occur anywhere throughout the spine.  The lower lumbar part of the spine is the most common site for this issue.  However, the cervical and thoracic regions can also be affected.  A herniated disc anywhere can cause radiating pain.  In most cases, this is seen by the pain radiating to a limb.  However, in some cases, the pain can radiate throughout the back.  For example, a herniated thoracic disc (most uncommon place for a herniation) may cause pain to radiate up into the neck or down into the lumbar spine. 

Pinched nerves, like herniated discs, can occur anywhere in the spine.  These are most often seen in the neck and lower lumbar spine.  Radiating pain is a very common occurrence with pinched nerves.  The radiation most often affects the limbs, but some people do notice pain in other areas of their back or neck when they have a pinched nerve.

Whiplash is exclusive to the neck, but the pain that happens with this condition can sometimes be more widespread than just the neck.  Most commonly, soreness and stiffness in the upper back can result along with it.  The muscles in the upper back and neck work together, so when one is badly injured, the other can become painful too, and in some cases, also injured.

Understanding Back and Neck Anatomy

The back is made up of several muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and bones.  If any one of these are injured or falls victim to disease, it can cause pain.  Some of the primary sources of pain that can affect both the neck and the back include:



  • Irritation of the smaller spinal nerves
  • Injured ligaments, bones or joints
  • Irritation of the large nerves that extend to the arms and legs
  • Strain of the large paired back muscles
  • The disc space itself

With the above-listed issues, it is not uncommon to experience both neck and back pain simultaneously due to how connected the anatomy is.  For example, a pinched nerve in the neck can cause leg pain depending on which nerve is pinched.  When a leg is painful, walking gait is shifted, which can cause lower back pain. 

Another example is a strain of the large paired back muscles.  These muscles span the back and can be attached to muscles of the neck.  So, a strain, depending on which exact muscles are involved, can cause widespread pain affecting the neck and whole back.

Major Causes of Neck Pain and Treatment

Neck pain is something that plagues everyone at one point or another. It can result from a variety of factors, such as chronic disease, acute injury, aging or even stress. Since everyone is at risk for neck pain, prevention is the best way. A Neck traction device can help prevent major neck issues


Causes of Neck Pain

Wear and tear of the joints in the neck is something that is pretty much inevitable. As we age, our joints and the discs in between each cervical vertebra will wear down. This can result in osteoarthritis in the neck. This condition can cause pain and stiffness.

Muscles strains result from overuse. Whether you are driving for extended periods of time or hunched over a computer in a cubicle, you are at risk for strained neck muscles. Before your neck muscles gets strained, they will first become fatigued. This generally causes some soreness, so there is a sign before a full strain occurs.

Nerves in the neck can become compressed and this can be quite painful. Nerve compression can result from herniated discs, stiffened discs and bone spurs. Herniated discs are an issue where the inner part of the spinal disc protrudes through a crack or a hole. Stiffened discs are generally a consequence of aging as discs dry out. Bone spurs are typically seen with arthritic neck joints. These are bony growths that can put pressure on surrounding structures, such as nerves.

Injuries involving the neck can result in neck pain. Whiplash is one of the most common ones. This occurs when the neck is violently jerked forward and backward. This overstretches the neck's soft tissues. It is usually the result of a rear-end collision.

Chronic diseases can sometimes cause neck pain too. One of the chronic diseases most commonly associated with neck pain is rheumatoid arthritis. The joints in the neck are commonly affected in this disease. This disease causes inflammation which can result in neck pain and stiffness.

It is important that everyone understands the possible causes and the treatments used to relieve the pain associated with these causes.

Neck Pain Treatments

Pain medications are what most people turn to first. Over-the-counter analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful for some people when pain is only mild. Even though these are non-prescription side effects can still occur. There are also prescription pain relievers. These typically include prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotic pain relievers and muscle relaxers. All can be effective, but like all drugs, all carry the risk of side effects.


Injections can be done to treat neck pain. These injections are often uncomfortable and can cause some discomfort for a few days after they are administered. The most commonly injected medications are corticosteroids and numbing medications. The corticosteroids can be injected into the small facet joints, near nerve roots or into muscles. Numbing medications are generally injected into painful muscles.

Physical therapy is often helpful for neck pain. It involves targeted exercises and stretches to strengthen the neck and improve its flexibility. Regular exercise can help to restore function, as well as ensure it is maintained.

Immobilizing the neck short-term is helpful for certain types of neck pain. This is done using a soft collar and is only done short-term, which is on average a maximum of two weeks. This can help to alleviate pressure on neck structures. A badly pinched nerve may benefit from short-term immobilization. Whiplash may also be a reason to try this treatment.

Traction is a type of therapy that is becoming increasingly popular. New neck traction devices require absolutely no set up. They resemble a neck brace and are applied similar to one, making them very easy to use. You would simply put the device on and then use the attached hand pump to increase traction. You can do this at home, at the office, or anywhere really as these new devices are fully portable.

Neck traction works to alleviate pressure on neck structures, prevent and correct bad posture and alleviate pain and stiffness.

Neck traction carries no risks of side effects and there is no recovery time needed. You simply use the device and then get back to your daily activities. Since the new devices are portable, you can often get some simple tasks done as you perform traction.

In more extreme cases of neck pain, a doctor may recommend surgery. If a spinal vertebra is greatly damaged, a nerve severely pinched and causing disabling symptoms or the pain severe and not responding to any other treatments, surgery may be suggested. Neck surgery is serious and carries with it serious risks and long recovery times.