The cervical spine, or neck, is an area of the body that has many structures (bones, nerves, muscles) in a relativly small area. Having this many structures in such a small area means that any one thing that is going wrong with one of these structures can cause a problem with another. One common problem as people age is arthritis occurring between the bones in their neck, or vertebrae. This arthritis can cause narrowing of teh spaces where nerves come out between the bones. The nerves in your neck, or anywhere else in the body for that matter, like to have space to move. When something, such as arthritis, starts to restrict this space, the nerver can become irritated and inflamed. This in turn can cause neck and arm pain.
The muscles of your neck can also be the root cause of your neck pain. The neck muscles are designed to do two things primarily. First, they are responsible for moving your head and neck around so you can see what is going on around you. Second, their job is to hold your head steady and unright when your aren't looking around. Many people do not realize how taxing of a job this can be. The average head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds. That is the weight of a mid size bowling ball! Most times, the neck muscles are more than up to this task, but over time, they can become weak. This then causes them to work harder than they used to. This, in turn, can cause fatigue and spasming that shows itself as neck pain.
Physical Therapists can help to alleviate neck pain by prescribing specific strengtening and strecthing exercises to enable the muscles to perform at their best once again.