Neck Pain Causes

stiff neck stretchesNeck pain causes can come from a number of possibilities, such as injuries and muscle strains, whiplash, scoliosis, twisted pelvis to name a few.  Unfortunately, almost 50% of neck pain resolves without any treatment.

In order to find out the cause of the pain, it is best to know if it’s an intrinsic pain coming from within the neck or an extrinsic pain which is rooted from another source. Is it a disease or an injury? 

Neck Pain Causes due to Overuse of neck muscle 

This may be a result of improper neck position during work or sleep, leading to muscle strain which can then trigger neck stiffness and pain. The pain is felt more upon movement and you may also experience headache and limited neck muscle movement.


This occurs following an accident or injury which can strain the neck muscles and causes the ligaments to tear off. The pain felt after a whiplash is severe with movement and accompanied by stiffness, muscle spasm, headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

As we age, the cervical disc wears off and causes an arthritic condition known as cervical osteoarthritis. People with cervical osteoarthritis can feel neck pain and stiffness which can be relieved with rest. The pain also radiates to the shoulders. If nerves are involved, there is the presence of dullness and weakness of the upper extremities.

Herniated Disc

One possible neck pain cause is a herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the cervical disc tears off, causing the soft tissues of the spine to bulge. The herniated disc places too much pressure on the nerves which leads to neck pain, weakness and numbness of the arms.

Cervical Stenosis

When degenerative changes happen in your vertebrae, the canal where the spinal cord lays narrows down causing cervical stenosis, or a narrowing.  As the canal becomes constricted, it places pressure on the spinal column, thus neck pain can be felt.

The pain and weakness can also spread to the arms and legs. Not all people will experience the symptoms of cervical stenosis but one common sign is the Lhermitte’s sign where a shock-like sensation can be felt when the neck is bent forward.

Diagnosing Neck Pain Causes

When you start to feel the symptoms of neck pain, scheduling a doctor’s appointment is the first and the best thing you can do. At your appointment, the doctor will determine possible causes for your neck pain by taking your medical history and performing physical examinations.

Taking the medical history is an important step since it will give the doctor an idea if you have had any accidents or what treatments you have tried. This information can help them develop the correct diagnosis and treatment plan for you.

The doctor may also order certain tests to be performed like CT scans; MRI’s and x-rays to find the precise cause of the problem. These tests can show any disc problems or nerve root compressions. Electromyography can also be conducted to evaluate the activity of the nerves and muscles to know if there is the presence of nerve or neck damage.

It can be a challenging task to rule out the different neck pain causes since some may present such symptoms while others do not. There are situations where the results of the scans and x-rays are not associated with the pain. For example, people who have severe cervical spondylosis may not experience neck pain. This should prompt your health care provider to pursue further work-up.