Neck Pain? These 6 Factors Could Be Causing It

Keeping it in the wrong position for an extended period of time can lead to neck pain. You need to take a break from time to time to stretch and improve your posture
Neck Pain? These 6 Factors Could Be Causing It

Last update: 24 August, 2020

During the workday or while you’re doing tasks around the house, it’s common to start experiencing tension or pain in the neck. In this article, we’ll present the possible causes of neck pain. You don’t want to miss this!

Exposure to stress, poor posture, and certain unhealthy habits can contribute to the appearance of this problem. In fact, an estimated seven out of every ten people suffer neck pain at some point in their lives. However, it isn’t usually chronic and tends to go away spontaneously.

Neck pain is usually caused by too much strain in the muscles that surround this part of your spine as they try to realign it to its normal curvature. That’s why it’s not surprising that you might also experience shoulder problems and even headaches.

While it’s usually not a major health problem, you should still try to avoid neck pain because it can lead to serious problems, such as degeneration of the spine.

With this in mind, take a look at some of the most common factors affecting neck pain and various ways to prevent it.

Possible causes of neck pain

The American College of Rheumatology points out that, in general, neck pain is the result of excessive strain on the cervical muscles. Only in very few cases is neck pain the symptom of an illness. While the cause of pain is often unknown, we’ll attempt to present you with a list of possible culprits.

A woman with neck pain.
A sedentary lifestyle can be a associated factor when it comes to neck and back pain.

1. The weakening of the muscles

As a result of sedentarism, improper movements, and constants stress, the trapezius and other muscles in this area can become weak. The problem can be exacerbated when you don’t get enough nutrition from food or you’re overextending your body during exercise.

2. Poor posture

Poor posture for long periods of time can produce pain. For example, sitting for a long time in front of the computer can cause muscle strain, according to this study.

Something similar can happen to people who sew or engage in other activities that require the neck to be bent for long periods of time. The same is true for continuous cell phone use.

People who use their cell phone excessively are more prone to suffering from neck and back pain than those who only use it when necessary. When you tilt your head to look down as your cell phone, you put pressure on the muscles in your neck. This can cause tension to accumulate.

In all of these cases, it’s a good idea to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to stretch and correct your posture. Keep this in mind when you’re in the same position for a long period of time. What’s more, you can also perform exercises to improve your posture.

3. Emotional problems

emotional turmoil is related to neck pain

Until a few decades ago, many medical professionals didn’t want to recognize the strong relationship between your emotional and physical health. Today, however, several studies have pointed out that cervical pain is often the result of emotional tension. Such is the case with a study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

Worry, anxiety, stress, depression, etc, can place a burden on the body that we can easily feel in the shoulders, neck, and back.

4. Chemical reactions

While scientific evidence to support this theory is lacking, many link chemical and nervous reaction in the body to different types of stimulants to the recurrence of neck pain.

Excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, and meat products can cause changes in the body’s pH, triggering inflammation.

5. Cigarette and alcohol use

Another possible cause of neck pain may be the toxic compounds we find in cigarettes. These substances can cause different chronic illnesses, including back and muscle tension due to the dehydration of the discs and their accelerated deterioration. However, we haven’t found scientific evidence regarding this issue.

6. Sedentariasm and too much time in front of the computer

Computer use and neck pain.
The prolongued use of electronic devices and poor posture can contribute to back and neck pain.

As we mentioned above, spending long hours in front of the computer, along with using and uncomfortable chair or desk, can cause you to adopt inadequate positions. This, in turn, produces neck and back pain.

It’s important to note that this discomfort doesn’t only have to do with computer use. In fact, excessive smartphone and tablet use also causes back and neck pain.

Recommendations to prevent pain in the neck

A woman stretching her neck to avoid tension.
Neck stretches can help to reduce pain. It’s best to perform them on a daily basis

Besides avoiding the above factors that contribute to neck pain, there are several guidelines that you can put into practice. Here are a few of them:

  • Target your back, shoulders, head, and neck with these exercises.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress with a pillow that’s not too tall.
  • Try to sleep in the fetal position and avoid sleeping face down.
  • Try to keep your posture upright and don’t sit for prolonged periods.
  • Be careful when lifting heavy objects from the floor and ask for help if possible.

Now that you’re clear on the possible causes of neck pain, try to incorporate better habits to keep neck pain from ruining your day. 

If back pain persists despite applying these measures, talk with a doctor in order to obtain a diagnosis and proper treatment. Remember that there’s no one better equipped to tell you how you should deal with your symptoms than your doctor.

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  • Blozik, E., Laptinskaya, D., Herrmann-Lingen, C., Schaefer, H., Kochen, M. M., Himmel, W., & Scherer, M. (2009). Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain: a cross-sectional study in general practice. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 10(1), 13.
  • Bovim, G., Schrader, H., & Sand, T. (1994). Neck pain in the general population. Spine, 19(12), 1307-1309.
  • Linton, S. J. (2000). A review of psychological risk factors in back and neck pain. Spine, 25(9), 1148-1156.
  • BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009; 10: 13. Published online 2009 Jan 26. Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain: a cross-sectional study in general practice. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-13
  • J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2008 Aug; 52(3): 161–167. Language: English | French
    A literature review of neck pain associated with computer use: public health implications.