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Neck pain – Symptoms, causes and other risk factors

One of the most common problems which are affecting people all around the world is the neck pain. This condition can come from many disorders and diseases and they can involve any of the tissues in your neck. A pinched nerve, a herniated disc, whiplash, neck strain and degenerative disc disease are examples of common conditions which are causing neck pain. Also there are some cases when the neck pain is coming from infections such as virus infection of the throat which is leading to lymph node (gland) swelling and neck pain. Neck pain can be also a result from rare infections such as meningitis (often accompanied by neck stiffness), infection of the spine bones in the neck (osteomyelitis and septic discitis) and tuberculosis of the neck. Also there are some conditions which are directly affecting the neck such as fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatic as well as from uncomfortable positioning of the neck, while sleeping with the head on a pillow, which lead to neck pain. Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain. Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture whether it is hunching over your workbench or leaning over your computer. Osteoarthritis is also one of the most common causes for neck pain. In rare cases, the neck pain can be a symptom of more serious problem. If your neck pain is accompanied by shooting pain you’re your shoulder or down your arm or numbness or loss of strength in your hands or arms, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. [1]

Symptoms of neck pain

Here are the signs and symptoms of neck pain:

  • Headache
  • Decreased ability to move your head
  • Facial pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Dull aching
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pulsations
  • Tenderness
  • Arm numbness or tingling (upper extremity paresthesias)
  • Muscle tightness and spasms
  • Pain that is often worsened by holding your head in one place for long periods such as when driving or working at a computer
  • Sharp shooting pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swishing sounds in the head
  • Lymph node (gland) swelling
  • Upper back pain
  • Lower back pain

In the most cases neck pain is improving gradually with home treatment. If your pain is not improved, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If your severe neck pain results from an injury such as fall, diving accident or a motor vehicle accident, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Also you should talk with your doctor if your pain is severe or persist several days without relief. Also if the pain spreads down arms or legs or it is accompanied by headache, numbness, weakness or tingling, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor should know the history of the symptoms you feel. Your doctor needs to know the radiation, duration, intensity and location of the pain.

Neck pain

Causes for neck pain

We know that our neck is flexible and it supports the weight of our head. This is making it vulnerable to conditions and injuries which cause pain and restrict motion. Following are some of the causes causes:

  • Diseases: There are some diseases such as cancer, meningitis or rheumatoid arthritis which can cause neck pain. [1,2]
  • Injuries: Rear – end auto collisions often result in whiplash injury which is happening when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck.  [3]
  • Nerve compression: Bone spurs or herniated disks in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord. [4]
  • Worn joints: Your neck joints tend to wear down with age just like other joints in your body. Osteoarthritis can cause cushions (cartilage) between your bones (vertebrae) to deteriorate. Your body then forms bone spurs that affect joint motion and cause pain. [1]
  • Muscle strains: Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over your computer or smartphone, often triggers muscle strains. Even minor tings such as reading in bed or gritting your teeth can strain neck muscles. [5]

Risk factors: 

  • Bull or bronco horse riding
  • Motor – vehicle accidents [3]
  • Involvement in contact sports [6]

Above are some of the factors which increases your risk of having neck pain.


[1] Binder AI. Neck pain. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2008;2008:1103.

[2] Parkar SM, Shah MN. A relationship between quality-of-life and head and neck cancer: A systemic review. South Asian Journal of Cancer. 2015;4(4):179–82.

[3] Davis CG. Rear-end impacts: vehicle and occupant response. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics. 1998;21(9):629-39.

[4] Iyer S, Kim HJ. Cervical radiculopathy. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2016;9(3):272–80.

[5] Fares J, Fares MY, Fares Y. Musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents: Risk factors and complications. Surgical Neurology International. 2017;8:72.

[6] Streifer M, Brown AM, Porfido T, et al. The potential role of the cervical spine in sports-related concussion: Clinical perspectives and considerations for risk reduction. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2019;49(3):202–8.

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


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