Neck pain can be caused by injury to any of the structures in the neck: the muscles, nerves, vertebrae, and the disks in between the vertebrae. Many people describe it as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere.

The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Usually daily activities and behavior are to blame, such as bending over your computer— or just being stressed.

Simple neck discomfort from a strain or stress can easily be remedied with certain exercises (described at right), the application of cold packs, or by decreasing strenuous activity.

Protect Your Neck

These movements can help prevent neck pain.

1. Cervical rotation

Turn your head side to side in a slow, controlled motion.

2. Cervical flexion

In a slow motion, bend your head forward and return it to rest.

3. Retraction/protraction

Move your shoulders forward and back.

4. Desk Ergonomics

Sit up straight, then adjust your monitor so you look straight ahead.

KNOW THE PROBLEM: Neck pain is most often caused by poor posture, stress, or overly rigorous exercise.

About the Doctor: John Gallucci Jr., M.S., A.T.C., P.T., D.P.T., is president of JAG Physical Therapy and JAG Pediatric Therapy and the medical coordinator for Major League Soccer.