Causes of Neck Problems in Adults

Cause of Neck Problems

Do you known that your neck is one of the major body parts of your body? It is made of vertebrae which extend right from your skull down towards to the upper torso. Here the cervical disc plays a major role of absorbing the shocks among the bones. The muscles, ligaments and bones present in the muscles of your neck supports your head. This is one that allows motion and if there are any injuries, abnormalities or inflammation, it will lead to stiffness of the neck as well as neck pain.

There are various individuals who experience a lot of stiffness as well as neck pain during certain occasions or at particular time in their life. This is majorly because of the overuse of your back or poor posture. There are chances that neck pain can be due to an injury caused during contact sports, falls or whiplash.

Sometimes these so called neck pain might not be a huge serious condition and will get cured within couple of days. In certain cases, these neck pains will show that there is an illness or serious injury and might require specialized medical assistance. In case the neck pain prolongs for a week or two and sometimes a month, then it is quite serious and if there are other symptoms, then you really need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Major Causes Of Neck Pain

There are various reasons on how you might get neck pain or what causes them. Some of them –

Muscle Strain And Tension

Normally this is caused due to various behaviors and activities related to –

  1. Poor posture
  2. Sleeping with your neck in a bad position
  3. Working on your desk for a long time without changing the position
  4. Jerking or moving your neck in the wrong direction while exercising


As we all know the neck is very much vulnerable to injuries and that during falls, sports, vehicle accidents and situations where there are chances for the ligaments and muscles of the neck are coerced to move right out of their supposed normal range. In situations, if your neck bone (which is also called as vertebrae) gets fractured, then the spinal cord will also get damaged side-by-side. Do you know that a neck injury which is caused due to immediate jerking of the head is termed as whiplash?

Heart Attack

It might be surprising to certain people that neck pain can even be symptoms for heart attack, however, it is often related to other symptoms of the heart attack like sweating, shortness of breath, vomiting, nausea, jaw or arm pain, etc. In case your neck hurts and there are other symptoms accompanying it, it is better to call an ambulance or proceed to the emergency room as soon as so possible.


Meningitis is caused due to the inflammation of the thin and dilute tissue which is surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Now for individuals who are suffering from meningitis, they might have headache, fever which is followed by stiff neck. Sometimes meningitis can be a quite fatal and it might be a medical emergency. If you are suffering from the symptoms of meningitis, then it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.

Other Major Causes

There are other causes for neck problem –

  • Osteoporosis will weaken your bone and might lead to tiny fractures. Now this is a common condition that occurs on one’s knees or hands and it can even incur in the neck.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis will lead to excessive pain and swelling of the joints and even the bone spurs. If this occurs in the neck area, it might cause a huge pain.
  • Fibromyalgia is one of the conditions which will causes muscle pain and that too all around your body and this is especially on your neck as well as shoulders.
  • As you start to get older, there is a high chance that the cervical disc will degenerate and this is called as osteoarthritis or spondylosis of the neck. Now this will narrow down the space among the vertebrae, and even will add a huge amount of stress on your joints. What happens is that as the disk starts to protrude, due to any injury or trauma, it will induce a huge amount of pressure on your nerve roots or spinal cord. This is known as herniated cervical disk and is also called as slipped disk or ruptured disk.
  • Spinal Stenosis happens when the spinal column gets narrowed and it will cause a huge amount of pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord as it exits the vertebrae. Now this might be caused due to a long-term inflammation which is due to other conditions or arthritis.

Now in rare instances, the neck pain or stiffness can happen because –

  • Infections
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Tumors
  • Abscesses
  • Cancer of the spine

Structure Of the Neck

With regards to the structure of your neck, there are major seven vertebrae which are the bony building blocks of your spine connecting the neck (this is called as cervical vertebrae). This is something that surrounds the canal and spinal cord. Now among these vertebrae are the discs which will nearby pass through your neck’s nerves.

In addition, within the neck, the structures consist of neck muscles, skin, arteries, lymph nodes, veins, thyroid glands, esophagus, parathyroid glands, trachea and larynx. Conditions or diseases which affect any of these neck tissues will also cause neck pain.

Seeing A Doctor

Now keep in mind that if the symptoms of the neck pain is continuous and prolongs for weeks, then you must consult the doctor as soon as possible. You must consult the doctor or physicians when you have –

  • Fever
  • Lump in your neck
  • Headache
  • Severe neck pain without any issue or cause
  • Nausea
  • Swollen glands
  • Weakness
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • Pain which radiated towards your legs or arms
  • Inability to touch the chin to your chest
  • Inability to move your hands or arms

Now keep in mind that if you had a fall or have been in an accident, and your neck deeply hurts, then it is better or you can say wise to call for medical care.

Expert Doctors Who Treat Neck Pain

There are various specialists or doctors who are specialized to treat your neck pain and these consist of general medicine physicians, which consist of family medicine doctors, and also consists of neurosurgeons, rheumatologists, ENT specialist, neurologists, chiropractors, emergency physicians and psychiatrists. In addition, there are other allied health professionals who have experience in treating neck pain which consists of massage therapists, physical therapists, and acupuncturists.

Diagnosing Neck Pain By Health-Care Professionals

When you are going to a physician or doctor for issues related to neck pain, your doctor will first do a physical examination and then he or she will take record of your complete medical history. You need to be prepared to inform the doctor on all about the symptoms and its specifics. In addition, you even need to allow them to be aware of all the required prescriptions and the OTC (Over-The –Counter) supplements and medications, whichever you have been consuming.

Now these so called supplements or medicines may not be related to your neck pain but you really need to provide the doctor a clearer picture of any kind of injuries or accidents you have suffered or got into.

The most important thing to remember here is that the treatment for neck pain is based on the diagnosis. Along with a thorough physical examination done by your doctor, you may need one or more kind of imaging studies and various tests to assist your doctor in finding out the exact cause of your neck pain.

The following are some of the physical test you might be subjected to-

  • X-Ray
  • Blood tests
  • CT scans
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Electromyography, this allows the doctor to verify the health of your nerves and muscles which easily controls your muscles.
  • MRI Scans

Based on the results from the above tests, the doctor might refer to a specialist for treating the neck pain. Some of the therapies the specialist might recommend are :

  • Exercise, physical therapy and stretching
  • Ice and heat therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain medication
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Traction
  • Neck collar
  • Hospital treatment if the condition is meningitis or heart attack
  • Antibiotics if there is any kind of infection
  • Surgery which is quite rare.

Alternative Therapies For Curing Neck Pain

There are various other therapies you can follow for curing your neck pain. Some of them are –

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Transcultaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Chiropractic treatment

Easing Neck Pain At Home

Sometimes you might be suffering from a small or tiny stiffness of your neck or neck pain. In such cases, you may want to follow the below given steps –

  • Make sure to apply some ice in the first few days. Then you need to apply the heat using the heat pad, or by taking a hot shower or hot compress.
  • You can consume OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Take some days off sports and other activities which can increase your symptoms like heavy lifting. As you slowly start to continue doing your normal activities, the symptoms will slow down.
  • Make sure to stretch your neck every day. You need to slowly stretch your head sideways and then follow it up in an up-and-down motion. Working through the range of motion.
  • Have a good posture while exercising.
  • Make sure not to cradle the phone around your shoulder and neck.
  • Always change your position at regular intervals. You mustn’t sit or stand in a single position for a long time.
  • Try to go for a gentle neck massage
  • If you want, you can use special neck pillows while sleeping
  • Avoid using any kind of neck brace or collar without consulting your doctor. If you don’t use them in a proper manner, then there are chances of the symptoms getting worse.

Prognosis For Neck Pain

One thing that you need to keep in mind is that the outlook of your neck pain is based on the exact cause. You can resolve most of the neck pains using conservative methods like avoiding re injury, rest and following gradual rehabilitation.

Preventing Neck Pain

It is easy and simple to avoid neck pains. The major aspect here is that you need to avoid hurting your neck. That means that you should try to reduce the risk of injuring your neck while playing any kind of sport. Sports persons who play collision sports can easily avoid neck injures using proper equipment, occasional neck bracing and neck strengthening exercises.

Basic Outlook Of Individuals Who Have Neck Pain

There are various individuals who suffer from neck pain and it is primarily because of muscle strain and poor posture. In such cases, you neck pain can be solved and avoided if you can practice proper and correct posture and provide rest to your neck muscles when they are sore. It is better if you can make an appointment with your doctor when you are having neck pain and if it isn’t improving as per the home treatments or any treatment that you have been following.

One thing that you really need to understand is that suffering from a neck pain can be quite serious if it is prolonged. Yes! You really need to ensure that you avoid injuring your neck at all instances and try to be extra careful.

However, if you do end up getting a neck pain, try to take proper medications and follow the required exercises. But you need to make sure that your doctor or physician approves it. This is especially if the neck pain is lasting for more than a week. In such cases, it is better to visit an expert in neck issues or expert surgeons.

Do work on strengthening your upper back muscles like your infraspinatus and scapula muscles. These are holding muscles which help your neck and often not are not trained by 95% of the population.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.