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Neck Pain

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Cause

Neck pain can be caused by:

  • An activity that harms the neck.
  • An injury.
  • Another medical condition.

Activities that cause neck pain

Most neck pain is caused by activities that involve repeated or prolonged movements of the neck. This can result in a strain (an overstretched or overused muscle), a sprain (injury to a ligament), or a spasm of the neck muscles.

These activities include:

  • Holding your head in a forward or odd position for long periods of time while working, reading, watching TV, or talking on the telephone.
  • Sleeping on a pillow camera.gif that is too high or too flat or that doesn't support your neck, or sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted or bent.
  • Spending long periods of time resting your head on your upright fist or arm.
  • Work or exercise that uses the upper body and arms, such as painting a ceiling or other overhead work.

Stress and focusing intensely on a task can also cause neck pain. Tension may develop in one or more of the muscles that connect the head, neck, and shoulders. They may feel tight and painful.

Injuries that cause neck pain

Minor injuries may occur from tripping or falling a short distance or from excessive motion of the cervical spine camera.gif.

Severe neck injuries may occur from:

  • Whiplash in a car accident.
  • Falls from significant heights.
  • Direct blows to the face or to the back or top of the head.
  • Sports-related accidents.

Medical conditions that cause neck pain

Certain medical problems can cause neck pain. These include:

  • Problems related to aging, such as:
  • Illnesses such as:
    • Meningitis, which causes inflammation around the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
    • Flu, which tends to make the neck and the rest of the body ache all over.
  • Chronic conditions such as:
  • TorticollisTorticollis (wryneck). Torticollis is caused by severe muscle tightness or a shortened muscle on one side of the neck, causing the head to be tilted to one side. Torticollis is usually a symptom of another medical problem.
  • Referred pain. Referred pain occurs when a problem in one place in the body causes pain in another place. For example, a problem with your jaw (temporomandibular disorder) or your heart (such as a heart attack) can cause neck pain.
  • Infection or a tumor in the neck area.

Some medicines can cause neck pain as a side effect.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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