Read below about neck pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your neck pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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5 Potential Neck Pain Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Non - Specific Neck Pain

    Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures in the neck. These include the muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), and the disks between the bones. This may not have an identifiable cause.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    neck pain, mild neck pain, pain in the back of the neck
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific neck pain:
    neck pain
    Symptoms that never occur with non-specific neck pain:
    severe neck pain, neck pain from an injury, fever
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Upper Back

    The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

    The pain associated with a slipped disk usually goes away within six weeks. If the pain lasts longer, consult a doctor. They may send you to see a back specialist for an MRI of your spine, and surgery may be considered.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    upper back pain, neck pain, arm weakness, back pain that gets worse when sitting, upper spine pain
    Symptoms that always occur with herniated (slipped) disk in the upper back:
    upper back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  3. 3.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Cellulitis

    Neck cellulitis is a skin infection that typically comes from other parts of the face like the mouth or the sinuses and needs antibiotic treatment. Symptoms can be pain, redness, warmth and swelling of the affected area.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    neck redness, trouble swallowing, neck pain, painful neck swelling
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    neck redness, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Ludwig's Angina

    Ludwig angina is a bacterial infection of the floor of the mouth and occurs beneath the tongue.

    Recovery is dependent on severity of disease.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, fever, being severely ill, trouble swallowing, neck pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

FAQs About Neck Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about neck pain.

Can stress and anxiety cause neck pain?

Yes, stress and anxiety can cause many people to habitually raise their shoulders. This raising of the shoulders can strain the trapezius and deltoid muscles of the back and shoulders, and the strain on those muscles can cause back pain — especially around the neck.

Why do I have neck pain on one side?

Neck pain on one side is commonly caused by postural (positional) changes. For example, sleeping in an incorrect position can cause muscle pain on one side. Alternatively, a muscle spasm or muscle lock can cause an inability to fully range — turn the neck to either side. The neck can be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, or, if it does not respond, with mild muscle relaxants.

When should you seek medical attention for neck pain?

You should seek medical attention if neck or back pain is accompanied by any loss or change in neurological function. This includes but is not limited to changes in vision, sensation along any part of the body, or ability to move. Neck stiffness and sensitivity to light are particularly worrisome signs, especially following a cough, cold or flu-like illness and should warrant immediate evaluation.

Can neck pain cause headaches?

Neck pain, especially tight neck muscles, can trigger both migraine headaches and tension headaches. Stress may be a connecting factor as it can cause muscle tension which triggers a headache. Most headaches and neck pain are caused by common stress, but any change in neurological status should warrant evaluation by a medical professional.

Why do I wake up with neck pain?

The most common cause of morning neck pain is sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Adjust your sleeping position or pillows and see if that helps with your neck pain. Neck pain may also be caused by teeth grinding or bruxism. It may strain the muscles of the jaw and even loosen teeth causing neck pain, headaches, or jaw pain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Neck Pain

  • Q.Is your neck pain constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Is your neck pain moving anywhere else?
  • Q.About your [shoulder], do you notice any of the following?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our neck pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Neck Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced neck pain have also experienced:

    • 8% Back Pain
    • 8% Headache
    • 4% Mucous Dripping in the Back of the Throat
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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