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Neck Pain: Symptoms, Causes, and More

Neck Pain: Symptoms, Causes, and More

by Zahra Ijaz · January 17, 2022

Neck pain is a common complaint and often results from musle strains due to bad posture.
You might notice neck pain when you lean over your computer or hunch over your workbench for a long period of time.

Another common cause of neck pain, however, is osteoporosis.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.


Neck Pain: Symptoms

Neck pain often results from a lean or hunch position over your computer, laptop, smartphone, or workbench and can also cause strain in your neck.

However, if you suffer from bone disorders like osteoporosis, you may also experience neck pain.

Let’s learn more about them in detail.

neck pain 1

It is important to note that neck pain is rarely due to an underlying medical condition.

But you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands.

Or if you have shooting pain in your shoulder or down your arm.

Your neck consists of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso.

Cervical discs absorb shock between the bones.

The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion.

Moreover, any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness.

In most cases, neck pain is not a cause of concern, and you can get relief from it within a few days.

But in some cases, it may indicate a serious injury or illness and needs care from a docotr.

In case you have neck pain that persists for more than a week, and it is severe, or it is accompanied by other symptoms, then seek medical attention immediately.

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Symptoms of Neck Pain

The symptoms of neck pain can range in severity as well as duration.

In most cases, neck pain is acute and only lasts for a couple of days or weeks.

However, it may also become chronic and the pain may be mild and not interfere with your daily activities or living. or it may be severe and cause disability.

Some of the common symptoms of neck pain are:
Stiff Neck
You may describe a stiff neck as though your neck is stiff or stuck.

Moreover, neck pain can also cause a decreased range of motion.

Pain when Moving
Neck pain is often exacerbated by motions like moving, twisting, or extending your cervical spine.

It can either be from side to side or up and down.


Sharp Pain
In some cases, your neck pain can also feel like a sharp or stabbing pain that is often localized to one area.

Radiating Pain or Numbness
Your neck pain can radiate to other parts of the body like your head, trunk, shoulder, and arms.

In case it involves the compression of a nerve, you may also feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in either of your arms or hands.

Furthermore, neck pain that is from a pinched nerve may also feel like a burning or sharp pain that starts at the neck and travels down your arm.

In such a case, talk with your doctor if you experience this symptom.

Pain that starts in your neck, in some cases, can also produce a headache: Cervicogenic headache.

It can be a symptom of migraine headache.

Pain when Palpated
Pain may increase in your cervical spine if palpated or physically examined.

Now, let’s learn about the causes of neck pain.


Causes of Neck Pain

The neck pain you experience can be due to a number of reasons, however, in most cases, it often subsides within a few days or so.

However, in some cases, it can occur due to an underlying serious medical condition and in this case, you should seek immediate medical advice.

Keep on reading.

neck pain 2

Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain or stiffness can occur for a number of reasons.
These are as follows:

Muscle Tension and Strain
This often occurs from activities and behaviors like:

  • poor posture
  • sleeping with your neck in a bad position
  • jerking your neck during exercise
  • working at a desk for a long time without changing position

One of the important things to note is that your neck is one of the most vulnerable parts to injury, especially in falls, car accidents.

This is where the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move outside of their normal range.

Moreover, in case of a fracture of the neck bones or cervical vertebrae, they may be damage to the spinal cord as well.

Neck injury from sudden jerking of the head is commonly known: Whiplash.

Heart Attack
In some cases, neck pain can also be a symptom of a heart attack.

It often persists with other symptoms of the heart attack like:

Shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, arm or jaw pain.


Thus, if your neck hurts and you have other symptoms of heart attack as well, you should call 911 or 988 and go to an emergency room immediately.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds your brain and spinal cord.

If you have meningitis, they may experience:

Stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and fever.

Moreover, meningitis can be fatal and is a medical emergency.

In case of symptoms, seek immediate medical help.

Other Causes of Neck Pain

Some of the other causes of neck pain are as follows:

Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA causes pain, swelling of the joints, and bone spurs. Moreover, when this occurs in your neck area, it can result in neck pain.

As you age, the cervical discs can degenerate and this is spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the neck.

This can also narrow the space between the vertebrae and add stress to your joints.

Osteoporosis tends to weaken your bones and can also lead to small fractures.

Additionally, this condition often occurs in your hands or knees, however, it can also affect your neck.

Herniated Cervical Disc
When a disc protrudes, from a trauma or an injury, it can add pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots.

This is Herniated Cervical Disc or a Reptured or Slipped Disc.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout your body, especially in your neck and shoulder region.

Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when your spinal column narrows and causes pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots that exist in the vertebrae.

Moreover, this can be from long-term inflammation that occurs due to arthritis or other condition.

In some rare cases, neck stiffness or pain can occur due to:

  • congenital abnormalities
  • tumors
  • cancer of the spine
  • abscesses
  • infections

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Treatment Options and Exercises

In most cases of neck pain, the pain often goes away without any medical intervention. You can use certain home remedies to ease the pain at home.

However, in some cases, if the neck pain persists for more than a week or so, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Keep on reading to learn more.

neck pain 3

Let’s discuss first when you should visit a doctor.

When to See a Doctor

If the symptoms you are experiencing persist for more than a week, you should consult a docotr.

Moreover, if you have the following, see a doctor as well:

Severe neck pain without any apparent cause, a lump in your neck, fever, headache, swollen glands, nausea, vomiting, and weakness.

visiting a doctor

Furthermore, trouble swallowing or breathing, numbness, tingling, pain that radiates down your arms or legs, inability to move your arms or hands, inability to touch your chin to your chest.

Bladder or bowel dysfunction are some of the reasons that you should visit your doctor.

In case you have been in an accident or fall, and your neck hurts, seek immediate medical care.

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Treatment Options

At first, your doctor will perform a physical exam and take your complete medical history.

Make sure to answer all their questions and tell them about your specific symptoms.

Moreover, it is important to let your doctor know about the prescription and over-the-counter, OTC medications or supplements that you might be taking.

It might not seem related, however, do let your doctor know about any recent injuries or accidents you have had as well.

Treatment for your neck pain depends on its cause.

Additionally, a thorough history and physical exam by your doctor can help, but you may still need imaging studies and tests.

These can help to determine the cause of your neck pain and make a diagnosis.

These options are:
Blood tests, CT scan, MRI scan, Electromyography allows your doctor to check the health of your muscles and the nerves that control your muscles.

Furthermore, a lumbar puncture or spinal tap can help to diagnose the cause of your neck pain.

Depending on your results, your doctor may also refer you to a specialist.

Treatment for neck pain often includes:

Ice and heat therapy, exercising, stretching, physical therapy, corticosteroids injections, and neck collar.


Pain medications, traction, antibiotics in case of infection, hospital treatment in case of meningitis or heart attack, and surgery which is rarely necessary are some options.

On the other hand, alternative therapies include:

  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic treatment
  • massage
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, TENS

However, make sure that you are seeing a licensed professional when using these methods.

Easing Neck Pain at Home

In case of minor stiffness or neck pain, you can take the following steps to relieve it.

Apply ice for the first few days and after that, apply heat with a heating pad, hot compress, or by taking a shot shower.

You can also take OTC pain relievers like iburophen or acetaminophen.

Take a few days off from sports, activities that can aggravate your symptoms, and heavy lifting.

Moreover, when you resume your normal activities, do so slowly so that your symptoms ease.

home remedies

Exercise your neck every day, slowly stretch your neck to side-to-side and up-and-down motions.

Practice good posture.

Avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder.

Change your position often and make sure to avoid standing or sitting in one position for too long.

Furthermore, get a gentle neck massage and use a special neck pillow for sleeping.

It is important to note that you should avoid a neck brace or collar without the approval of your doctor.

If you do not use them properly, it can make sure symptoms worse.

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Exercises for Neck Pain

You can try some stretching exercises at home to ease neck pain.

However, it is important to ask your doctor first.

Stretch First
Loosen up your muscles in your problem area with a good stretch.

Stretching helps to restore and maintain flexibility, promote a range of motion, and improve blood flow, all of which can help alleviate pain.

neck pain exercises

Neck Side Bend and Rotation
For this exercise, stand or sit forward, and begin tilting your neck to the right.

During this, you should feel the stretch through your neck to your trap muscle.

After about 10 seconds, slowly roll your head in a counterclockwise direction and pause for 10 seconds when you reach the left shoulder.

Complete the rotation by ending where you began and repeating these steps in a clockwise direction. You can repeat this sequence 2 to 3 times.

Shoulder Roll
Stand with your arms down at your sides.

Roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion completing 5 rotations and then completing 5 rotations forward.

Repeat this sequence at least 2 to 3 times.

Overhead Arm Reach
Sit in a chair, facing forward with your feet on the ground.

Then extend your right arm up above your head and reach to the left, bend your torso until your feel the stretch in your right lat and shoulder.

Return to start, repeat 5 times, and do the same thing with your left arm.

Prevention Tips

In most cases, neck pain is associated with poor posture along with age-related wear and tear.

To help prevent neck pain, keep your head centered over your spine.

With the help of following simple changes in your daily routine, you can ease neck pain.

When standing or sitting, make sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders.

Moreover, if you are traveling for long periods of time, or work long hours at your computer, get up, move around, and stretch your neck and shoulders.


Adjust your desk, chair, and computer so that the monitor is at eye level and your knees should be slightly lower than your hips.

Use the armrests of your chair as well.

It is important to note that you should avoid tucking the phone between your ear and shoulder and use a headset or speakerphone instead.

Smoking can put you at a high risk of developing neck pain, thus avoid it.

Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder as the weight can strain your neck.

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In case you experience neck pain due to poor posture and muscle strain, you can ease the pain with the help of good posture and rest your neck muscles when they are sore.

Moreover, you can also use some of the above home remedies to ease the pain.

However, if the pain persists and is not improving with the help of home treatments, then make an appointment with a doctor.

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