Causes of Neck Pain

Discover the top possible causes of neck pain. Cervical spinal stenosis and neck muscle pain can be the result of a serious medical condition.

Some are the almost inevitable result of aging, some are due to injury and others result from poor posture and body mechanics. Many are similar to the causes of lower back pain but the cervical area does not get quite the abuse that the lower back does.

Acute neck pain has been around for about 3 weeks or less. Chronic neck pain has been around for 3 months or longer. People will often think that they have an acute condition since they just started having neck pain for no apparent reason. They tell themselves that they have experienced this in the past and after a few days it will go away; just like before.

Acute and chronic causes of neck pain are often related so taking the time to get an accurate diagnosis is important.

In reality this is likely the same chronic problem that keeps recurring.

It could have been brought on by sleeping in a bad position, turning your head to look at something or perhaps straining to lift something heavy. The trigger is almost irrelevant but if each "bout" is a little more severe or takes a bit longer to recover from then you have a chronic problem.

These will not get better by themselves and should not be ignored. Get a correct diagnosis by your physician.

Some neck pain will be a compensatory reaction from a low back injury. Causes of lower back pain, no matter how old, are commonly linked to neck pain for this reason.

Some of the more common, possible causes of neck pain are listed below. Some will be inter-related depending on the severity of the injury or pain.

Pinched Nerve In Neck

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Our neck as well as the rest of our spine is held together by muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. The ligaments keep the spine stable and help re-center it after being acted on by the muscles. The muscles control our movements.

If we are injured or overwork our muscles we can pull on the vertebrae in our spine causing a misalignment. When the vertebrae twist they apply pressure to the nerve root and cause us to feel pain.


Cervical Spinal Stenosis

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Patients are often given multiple diagnoses as possible causes of neck pain after a doctor has reviewed their case. Cervical spinal stenosis is one condition that gets laid on top of one or more primary diagnoses. The reason is that stenosis just means a narrowing of the path through which either the nerve root passes or the canal through which the spinal cord passes.

This diagnosis is typically caused by a herniated disc or arthritic bone spurs but in and of itself does not specify a particular cause like most of the other problems.


Cervical Spondylosis

causes of neck pain, pinched nerve in neck, cervical degenerative disc disease

Cervical spondylosis is degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine. Many people are diagnosed with this condition without experiencing any symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms you are likely in one of the latter stages since there is normally a systematic progression of symptoms once they occur.


Neck Muscle Pain

causes of neck pain, pinched nerve in neck, cervical degenerative disc disease

Neck muscle pain can be acute resulting from a recent trauma or injury. In rare cases diseases such as fibromyalgia or meningitis can cause neck muscle pain and you will want to be evaluated by your physician if you are in doubt. An injury will strain the muscle causing micro tears in the muscle tissue that will heal over time. Muscle pain can also come from something as simple as every day stress, poor posture or sleeping in a bad position. Overused muscles from unusual activity will also become tight and are common causes of neck pain.

If our neck pain has been around for 3 or more months it is considered chronic. Inflammation is now being thought to be the primary cause of chronic neck muscle pain. The symptoms will be felt as muscle tightness, soreness or weakness.


Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

causes of neck pain, pinched nerve in neck, cervical degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease is commonly abbreviated as DDD. While DDD can occur in any area of the spine it gets the cervical designation when it affects the neck. Recent studies show that 25% of people under age 40 and 60% of people over age 40 that are diagnosed with cervical DDD do not experience any symptoms.

The symptoms experienced are similar to a pinched nerve and are typically a sore and stiff neck. Cervical DDD is thought to be the natural effect of aging. As we age the intervertebral disc degenerates. In the latter stages nerve root compression can result causing pain in the neck, upper back and arms.


Herniated Cervical Disc

causes of neck pain, pinched nerve in neck, cervical degenerative disc disease

A herniated cervical disc is typically caused by a trauma. It is one of the less common, possible causes of neck pain but can be very debilitating for those that experience it.

Whiplash from an auto accident is the most common form of cervical trauma. The nucleus pulposus is normally encapsulated by the annulus keeping it centered between the vertebrae above and below.

When the annulus is torn fissures are created that allow the nucleus to protrude out from the center of the disc. When the nucleus comes into contact with either the nerve root or the spinal cord that is when we experience pain and other cervical herniated disc symptoms.


You may be thinking that a lot of these possible causes of neck pain sound like they are describing the same problem. In some respects you are right. Look at the picture below.

causes of neck pain, pinched nerve in neck, cervical degenerative disc disease

Which of the people in the pyramid are needed to keep the red person on top. They all are!

The people below are like the different components of your spine. The spine is primarily supported by the vertebrae, discs and facet joints. If any of these fail the additional strain placed on the others will eventually force them to fail as well. That is why we experience a cascading effect if one area fails.

This is why periodic checkups are so important and to also listen to the first symptoms that you experience. Your body may give you little hints that something is amiss, such as some numbness in your fingers, because it expects that you will do something about it.

Its not going to force you to experience a lot of pain right away. That is for later after you ignore the initial symptoms. How irritating would it be if the oil light on your car came on if it was just an ounce low? That isn't critical! Your body is the same way; it gives you little hints, symptoms, that something is wrong but saves the real pain for later if things are being ignored.

Many of us have been trained that pain is the first sign that something is wrong. Then we take a pill to cover up the pain! Bad plan. If you are experiencing any of these possible causes of neck pain respect your body and get it diagnosed and treated. Your body will appreciate it.

Educational Videos


These 3D animations with voice-over are to help you better understand your condition and the possible course of action to treat it.

The simple to use interface will allow you to see and hear the explainations of many conditions, inculding their treatments. The Amazing Spine area will explain the human spine and each vertebrea's affect on the internal organs and nerves.

To your better health!


If you haven't found what you are looking for just use the Custom Google search box below which will search just this site. Can't remember where that study on Spinal Decompression was discussed? Just type "spinal decompression study" into the box.


Learn more about your spine...

Pinched Nerve in Neck Symptoms

Neck Muscle Pain

Chronic Shoulder Pain

Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Herniated Cervical Disc

Sciatica Symptoms

Causes of Upper Back Pain

Chiropractic Back Pain Specialist

Treatment for Herniated Disc by Spinal Decompression

Severe Lower Back Pain

Spinal Decompression Clinics


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Back Pain Causes and Relief

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