What Are the Common Causes of Neck Pain?

Neck pain affects 30 to 50 percent of the general adult population each year. Some pain will go away on its own, while others will linger. If you ignore the pain, it can worsen and affect your quality of life.

By understanding different types of neck pain, you will know the best way to treat and manage it. It can be frightening, especially if the pain continues for over three weeks, but keep reading to learn the different causes of neck pain to gain control over the situation.

Acute Neck Pain Causes?

Muscle, tendon, and ligament strains are the most common causes of neck discomfort. They recover within a few days or weeks. Here are some examples of acute neck problems:

Poor Posture

Constant slouching over a computer screen results in a forward head position. This leads to increased neck strain.

Text neck means discomfort from staring down at a smartphone or tablet for a long duration.

Sleeping in an uncomfortable posture can be an issue. A stiff neck may be present in the morning if the head is in an awkward position while sleeping.

Repetitive Activities

Repeated movements in your neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments can cause pain. This is common in side-to-side dancing or swimming motions.


Any fall or impact, such as a sports collision or whiplash from an automobile accident, can cause pain. That is why patients have a brace around their neck after a car accident. The goal is to prevent constant movement that can worsen the pain.

Chronic Neck Pain Causes

When neck pain persists for many months, this is often because of degeneration from gradual wear and tear. Here are some common causes:

Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Over time, all discs lose their moisture and capacity to cushion the vertebrae of the spine. If the disc degenerates enough, it can lead to pain from nerve compression or bone rubbing on each other.


When the cartilage in the cervical facet joint deteriorates enough, osteoarthritis may develop. The constant inflammation and degeneration lead to chronic neck pain.

Herniated Cervical Disc

The protective outer layer of the intervertebral disc is the annulus fibrosus. The jelly-like inner layer is the nucleus pulposus.

If the outer layer breaks down, the inner part may leak and compress nearby nerves. This leads to inflammation and discomfort.

Spinal Stenosis

This is where the spinal canal narrows and constricts nearby nerves.

This leads to pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness. These symptoms may spread into the neck, arms, and legs if the nerve root or spinal cord gets compressed.

Other Neck Pain Causes

If physical and imaging exams are normal, here are some common potential causes to explore:


70 percent of dentists notice more patients are grinding their teeth during the pandemic. The pressure from this can transfer to your neck, resulting in pain.


The infected part of the cervical spine can cause inflammation. This also leads to fever, low blood pressure, and other symptoms. The best way to stop the pain is to get rid of the infection through IV antibiotics.

Myofascial Discomfort Syndrome

This originates from the trigger points arising from aching neck muscles. Pain can radiate from another place in the body.


Fibromyalgia often causes pain in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Usually, the blood test will reveal elevated ESR and CRP. These are inflammatory markers, but corticosteroids can reduce them.

Spinal Tumor

A tumor can form in the cervical spine and cause tissue damage or nerve compression. Diagnose this with an MRI and treat it with surgery and corticosteroid injections.


This disease arises when a vertebra slides across one another. It results from a vertebral fracture, ligament laxity, or severe disc degeneration.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

If neck pain persists, it can affect your sleep and quality of life. It can also impede other daily tasks, such as getting dressed or going to work.

Don’t know when to worry about the pain? Here is a list of symptoms to give you some clues:

  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty moving your neck
  • Sharp, stabbing pain
  • General soreness
  • Radiating pain from neck to shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty holding or lifting items
  • Arm or fingers getting numb or weak

Neck discomfort often resolves on its own, but sometimes you have to treat the issue to relieve the symptoms.

How to Get Rid of Neck Pain

There are several strategies you can do at home. If that doesn’t work, chat with a provider for more options. Here are some neck pain treatments to explore:


Avoid vigorous activities and motions for a few days. Persist with slow mobility to prevent the neck from growing weaker and stiffer.

Cold and Warmth

Ice helps reduce swelling and discomfort, while heat relaxes muscles and increases blood flow and nutrition.

Apply ice or heat treatment for 15 to 20 minutes. Then separate for at least 2 hours to allow the skin to recuperate.

Gentle Stretches

Gentle range-of-motion stretches may relieve some types of neck discomfort and muscular stiffness. If a specific action exacerbates the pain, stop and attempt another movement.


A massage may reduce pain and promote relaxation. It helps relieve muscular tension and spasms.

Manual Manipulation

A chiropractor or osteopathic doctor will use their hands to manipulate the spine. This helps increase the range of motion and decrease discomfort.

Spinal manipulation entails high-velocity maneuvers. Spinal mobilization uses procedures with a narrower range of motion.


A licensed acupuncturist inserts tiny needles into precise skin locations. It depends on the nature and probable cause of the pain.

These needles get put into the neck or elsewhere on the body to treat the pain. The goal is to unblock stagnated energy (qi) to speed up recovery.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps increase neck strength and flexibility. The form and duration vary based on the unique condition and scenario.

It entails many visits per week with a qualified physical therapist. The treatment plan leads to workouts performed at home.


Nonprescription pain relievers, such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen, can reduce neck pain. If neck discomfort continues, your doctor can prescribe a more potent NSAID dose. They may also prescribe muscle relaxants or opioids.

Before taking any drugs, read the directions and adhere to the doctor’s recommendations. This will reduce side effects or drug interactions.

Steroid Epidural Injection

Your provider will inject cortisone solution into the cervical epidural space. They will use contrast-enhanced fluoroscopy to guide them.

The goal is to decrease inflammation on adjacent nerve roots and tissues. Patients with a herniated disc or spinal deterioration found relief from these steroid injections.

Learn More About the Causes of Neck Pain

Each part of your body connects to one another. For example, if you experience constant stress, you will clench your teeth. The pressure can radiate to your neck, leading to pain.

You want what’s best for your body, and stopping that nagging pain is the goal. From pain killers to injections, several treatments are available. For more information about the causes of neck pain, contact us today.