Neck pain is one of the most frequent reasons people give for coming in to my office. Persistent neck pain, if left unaddressed, is a problem that not only decreases productivity at work but cripples quality of life after-hours.

The causes of neck pain are many. Among my first recommendations are identifying and correcting computer habits and general work practices that negatively affect posture and balance--because poor posture and balance lead to strain and, later, pain. But if you've eliminated those most common causes and still have chronic or frequent neck pain, please don't despair. There are plenty of other common neck pain culprits left. And the good new is, these pain triggers are largely treatable!

Cause 1: Sleep position, quantity, and quality are less than optimal.
In terms of neck pain, "sleep problem" can break down into several different but related issues.

- Does your mattress sag, letting your spine fall into poor alignment? Do you double over your old, flat pillow, thus putting strain on your neck by forcing your head up too far? Keeping a worn-out mattress and pillows, rather than replacing them with more supportive ones, is a recipe for neck stiffness.
- Nights full of tossing and turning--whether caused by the discomfort of a bad mattress or some other issue--can lead to neck discomfort.
- Sleeping too little can make neck tension worse.

You can see where this is going: An escalating cycle emerges. Spoor sleep worsens neck pain, and neck pain in turn robs a person of good sleep.

Take an honest look at your sleep environment and habits. If you can address whatever makes quality sleep difficult, you just might solve neck trouble as well.

Cause 2: You're experiencing plain old stress.
No surprise here. If you have neck pain, chances are high that a stress component is at work. Once mental stress is figured in, this can add even more tightness, discomfort, and pain to the neck and shoulders.

If stress is part of the picture, treating the pain alone may not fix the whole problem. You'll need to address stress itself. Regular exercise as well as yoga, acupuncture, Pilates, and meditation are all recommended for effective reduction of stress.

Cause 3: You might have an injury, strain, or vertebral/disc issue.
A nagging problem could indicate a more serious underlying issue. Perhaps it's time for a visit to a doctor or other spinal professional to rule out misalignments or conditions that call for additional therapy. And remember, it doesn't always take a new trauma for pain to flare up. That sports accident back in high school could be coming back to haunt you. Only a professional can help you get to the bottom of stubborn or recurring neck pain.

Cause 4: You aren't taking advantage of all methods to relieve your neck discomfort.
Maybe it's time to think more broadly. If neck pain has not responded to treatment with cold, heat, or stretching, you might consider some holistic methods of pain relief. These include acupuncture (particularly trigger point therapy), chiropractic, massage, or yoga. Sometimes it takes a village!

Above all, recognize that neck pain does not have to be the end of your comfort and enjoyment of everything you love. Getting to the root of your neck pain may take some investigation, but it's worth it. And you don't have to face the challenge alone. Professional help is available; don't be afraid to seek it! Take action now to start to sorting through the causes--and begin finding solutions.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta's goal is not only to relieve patients' illness and discomfort, but to help them set realistic goals for physical and mental preventative care and overall wellness. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers.