Most Common Causes of Neck Pain

May 29, 2020 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Are you frequently bothered by neck pain? According to Best Practice and Research Clinical Rheumatology Journal, more than 86.8% of the general population experience neck pain at some point in their lives.

The neck is an important part of the body as it protects major blood vessels and nerves. It consists of several bones, muscles, and ligaments that support the weight of the head and connects it to the spine. The flexibility of the neck and its delicate anatomy makes it susceptible to pain.

According to our spine doctors at Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic, here are the most common causes of neck pain:

Poor Sleeping Position

If you’ve been sleeping in a poor position, you could wake up with stiff neck muscles that cause pain to radiate to the shoulders and back. To avoid a bad sleeping position, provide yourself with a good support pillow that will keep your neck aligned when you’re lying down.


Whiplash is a common injury from an automobile accident. Also known as neck sprain or neck strain, this injury happens when the head is jolted backward or forward with such a force that it damages the structures of the neck.

With some patients, the effects of whiplash don’t manifest until a few hours or days after the incident. The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, along with shoulder and low back pain, neck stiffness, dizziness, and numbness in the hand or arms. 

To treat a neck injury like whiplash, patients have to take pain medications, rest or reduce the intensity of physical activities, and possibly undergo physical therapy. The pain normally subsides within a few weeks, and patients usually recover completely within three months.

Muscle spasm

Neck spasms make it difficult and painful to turn your head. They happen when a group of muscles contracts involuntarily. There are many underlying causes of muscle spasm. It can be due to electrolyte imbalance, neck injury, overexertion, poor posture, or stress. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), cervical or neck spasms may also occur in patients with cervical spondylosis or arthritis of the neck.

Generally, the pain only lasts for a few days and can be relieved by rest and pain medication. However, if the neck spasm persists for a week or longer, it’s best to visit a spine doctor for a proper diagnosis. 

Disk Degeneration

Disk degeneration or narrowing of the spinal canal may also lead to neck pain. For a patient with arthritis, the progression of disk degeneration may be faster, so the patient may experience neck pain more often.

There are some conservative treatments to reduce the pain caused by disk degeneration, such as taking medication, wearing a cervical collar, or reducing mobility, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Some patients are given corticosteroids and epidural steroids, spaced out in weeks, to manage the pain. However, for severe cases in which the neck pain is debilitating, patients are advised to undergo surgery. Discuss your options with a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon.

Leading Neck Pain Treatment at Raleigh Orthopaedic

If you are worried about your neck pain, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with our orthopedic spine surgeons. For all of our patients, we make it mandatory to wear a mask or face covering during your appointment. Your well-being is important to us, so we have reopened our Cary, North Raleigh, and Panther Creek locations. Feel free to choose which location is most accessible to you:

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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.