Neck Pain Symptoms

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

Neck pain is a very common problem that nearly everyone will suffer from at some point in their lives. While there is usually little cause for concern when it comes to neck pain, it can sometimes be a sign of a very serious problem. Here, you’ll learn the possible causes of neck pain as well as some of the ways that you can treat it and prevent it from happening again.


There are many causes of neck pain, including something as simple as sleeping in an odd position or gritting one’s teeth while sleeping. By far the most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain, but there are several others, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Poor diet
  • Wear-and-tear arthritis
  • Joint problems
  • Nerve compression
  • Stiffened cervical disks
  • Herniated cervical disks
  • Bone spurs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis- an autoimmune condition which causes the body to attack the tissue that lines the joints, which in turn causes pain, swelling and joint destruction.
  • Meningitis- a dangerous infection, most often a viral infection but it can also be bacterial or fungal, that causes swelling of the meninges, the lining of the brain and spine.
  • Cancer

Neck Pain And Other Symptoms To Watch Out For

Those who experience the following symptoms along with neck pain need to seek medical attention immediately because it could be a sign of a serious emergency:

  • Shooting pain in the shoulder or down the arm
  • Numbness or loss of strength in arms or hands
  • Change in bladder or bowel habits
  • Inability to touch the chin to the chest


Treatment for neck pain can vary widely based upon what’s causing the pain and the severity of the pain.

If the cause of the neck pain is something as simple as muscle strain, there are a number of easy ways to treat this at home. Ice, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers can usually do the trick. If not, there are stronger pain-relievers and muscle relaxers available by prescription from a doctor. Other treatments that can be helpful in treating muscle strains and injuries causing neck pain include massage, yoga, acupuncture and aromatherapy.  In the case of an injury, physical therapy may help as well.

If the cause of the problem is some form of arthritis, there are several prescription medications that can help stop the damage to the joints and relieve the pain. There are also over-the-counter supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM that can also help relieve the pain arthritis can cause in the joints of the neck. Massage, yoga, acupuncture and aromatherapy may be able to help those with arthritis as well by helping to relieve swelling, keep joints lubricated and reduce pain.

In the case of disk or nerve problems, a medical specialist is needed. Treatment for these problems can vary. It can be something as simple as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and rest, or as serious as epidural steroid injections or surgery. Treatments such as chiropractic care or massage may help, but should be discussed with the doctor to be sure that further damage won’t result.

For something as serious as meningitis, which is caused by an infection, a doctor will prescribe medication to treat the infection, no matter if it is caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection.

There are complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) options as well. Ask your doctor about some of these complementary or alternative treatments to help reduce neck pain from muscle strains, injuries, and poor nutrition:

  • Arnica is often used to treat muscle strains and injuries
  • Black cohosh is used to reduce muscle spasms
  • Protease enzymes inflammation and muscle aches
  • Magnesium, potassium, and calcium all help relieve muscle pain due to nutrient deficiency
  • Acupuncture uses tiny needles placed in key areas around the body to relieve symptoms like neck pain
  • Reflexology is similar to acupuncture in that it focuses on applying pressure to key areas on the foot to release trapped energy to relieve certain symptoms

There are a number of homeopathic preparations that can help as well. A homeopathic practitioner can prescribe the preparation needed.


There are a number of precautions that people should take to avoid developing neck pain.

  • Proper body mechanics when working can help reduce neck pain. There is a high likelihood that long hours spent working at a computer or driving long distances will cause neck pain. Keep the head centered over the spine so that the muscles aren’t working against gravity to hold the head up.
  • Don’t try and hold the phone between the ear and shoulder. If using the phone frequently is required, a headset or Bluetooth earpiece will reduce the strain on the neck.
  • Stomach sleeping should be avoided because it puts excess strain on the neck. Instead people should sleep on the side or back with a good, supportive pillow.

While neck pain is common, it doesn’t have to disrupt daily life. By taking the proper precautions to avoid neck pain and promptly treating it when it occurs, people can get back to feeling good in no time.


  • Medline Plus
  • Mayo Clinic
  • ABC News
  • The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Internal Medicine. Edited by Marc S. Sabatine. Fourth Edition, Pg. 6-9, 6-10.
  • Prescription for Natural Cures. James F. Balch, M.D., Mark Stengler, N.M.D., Robin Young Balch, N.D. Pg. 407-410.

More in category

Related Content