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 in the
neck. This can result in a
strain (an overstretched or overused muscle), a
sprain (injury to a ligament), a spasm of the neck
inflammation of the neck joints.
- 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 that is too high
or too flat or that doesn't support your head, or sleeping on your stomach with your
neck twisted or bent.
- Spending long periods of time resting your forehead on your
upright fist or arm ("thinker's pose").
- 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 .
neck injuries may occur from:
- Whiplash in a car accident.
- Falls from significant
- Direct blows to the face or to the back or top of the head.
- Sports-related accidents.
- A penetrating injury such as a stab wound.
applied to the outside of the neck, such as
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
- Flu, which tends to make the
neck and the rest of the body ache all over.
- Chronic conditions such as:
- Torticollis (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
- 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.