Discover Why Your Neck Hurts

Your neck may hurt for several reasons. Only in a few cases is this pain associated with a serious condition. In this article, discover why your neck hurts!
Discover Why Your Neck Hurts

Last update: 02 March, 2021

Many people who say their neck hurts don’t always know why. Since they often aren’t aware of the cause of the problem, they don’t take the necessary measures to make it go away.

This pain occurs for several reasons, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to a serious health problem. However, you shouldn’t rule out going to see a doctor, especially when the pain is continuous, strong, or accompanied by other severe symptoms.

In most cases, neck pain is due to benign causes. It’s usually accompanied by pain in other close body areas, like the shoulders, back, head, or jaw. It often disappears with basic care.

Do you want to know more?

Keep reading!

Neck pain

According to data from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, there are different types of neck pain.

It’s usually a mild pain that worsens when you have to hold your head up for long periods of time. For example, when you work on the computer or when you drive.

A woman with neck pain.
Neck pain often manifests along with shoulder and back discomfort. However, most of the time, it isn’t a serious problem.

It usually manifests along with spasms or stiffness in the muscles of the area. Likewise, it’s common for people with neck pain to have a hard time moving their heads.

Persistent or severe neck pain can be a sign of a serious condition. You need to see your doctor as soon as possible if it radiates to the arms or legs or is accompanied by tingling, weakness, or headaches.

Types of neck pain

Not all neck pains are the same. According to its nature, neck pain can be classified as:

  • Muscle pain. It occurs in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. You can feel palpable knots in the area, which are soft to the touch.
  • Muscle spasms. A study published in the journal Acta Ortopédica Mexicana indicated that numbness, which makes it hard to move the head, also occurs. This is because the person feels pain, especially when they try to turn their head.
  • Nerve pain. It can affect the spinal nerves. The person experiences brief but intense discomfort, accompanied by a prickling sensation.
  • Bone pain. It’s intense and rare. If you suffer from it, you should go see your doctor right away.
  • Pain around the head. The sufferer often feels it at the back of the neck (between the lower part of the head and the upper part of the neck). It’s accompanied by a headache and is usually mild and persistent.
  • Referred pain. It appears when a person makes a specific movement that isn’t directly related to the neck. For example, eating or lifting an object with the hands. It also requires a medical consultation.
  • Facet joint pain. Felt in the vertebrae; it usually radiates to the shoulders or upper back. It’s usually most intense in the mornings or after long periods of inactivity. This pain is usually associated with arthritis.

Why your neck hurts

The main reasons why your neck hurts are the following:

  • Poor posture. Caused by an inappropriate posture, especially while sitting or sleeping. Sometimes, it’s due to the pillow, lack of head support, or any other factor that causes misalignment and tension in the neck.
  • Anxiety or stress. These conditions can cause muscle contraction and pain. In fact, these factors and poor posture are the most common causes of neck pain.
  • Wear and tear. Age causes wear and tear in the cervical area, leading to the degeneration of the vertebrae or discs of the neck.
A woman stretching her neck.
Most cases of neck pain are the result of poor posture or sudden movements. However, it can also be a symptom of some injuries and diseases.
  • Whiplash. This injury occurs when the head violently and suddenly moves forward and then backward.
  • Cervical radiculopathy. Characterized by pain that radiates to the arms. It also causes numbness and a prickling sensation in the arms. Inflammation or damage of the nerves of the spinal cord causes this condition.
  • Brachial plexus injury. Accompanied by hand pain. Car or sports accidents are the most common causes of this injury.
  • Other causes. A herniated disk, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, meningitis, or cancer, among others.

What to do when your neck hurts

As you’ve seen, several possible causes could be behind your neck pain.

Sometimes, it’s just a consequence of maintaining a poor posture for a long time. Natural remedies could provide relief in mild cases.

However, it’s sometimes caused by injuries or other conditions. In fact, Dr. Steven P. Cohen explains that 50% of patients could continue experiencing episodes of neck pain. Therefore, if it’s severe or accompanied by other symptoms, you should consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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  • Binder AI. Neck pain. BMJ Clin Evid. 2008;2008:1103. Published 2008 Aug 4.
  • Cohen, S. P. (2015). Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 90, pp. 284–299). Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.09.008
  • InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Neck pain: Overview. 2010 Aug 24 [Updated 2019 Feb 14]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK338120/
  • Martínez CF, Hernández RLA, García TJL, et al. Espasmo muscular del cuello en el esguince cervical y su correlación con la severidad de la lesión. Acta Ortop Mex. 2004; 18 (Suplemento: 1): 7-12.
  • Puebla Díaz, F. (2005). Tipos de dolor y escala terapéutica de la OMS: Dolor iatrogénico. Oncología (Barcelona), 28(3), 33-37.