Types of Neck Pain

Types of Neck Pain

Neck pain may present itself in different ways with some being more severe than others. Some types of neck pain may result in weakness in the arms. Additionally, you may have difficulty turning to the other side. There are different causes for neck pain such as injuries to the vertebral artery or blood vessels found in the neck. Regardless of what causes neck pain, you can use over-the-counter pain medication for relief and treatment. These include ibuprofen and acetaminophen. You can also apply ice to the affected area to relieve the pain.

Here is what you need to know about the different types of neck pain.

1. Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain is caused by irritation of the joints in between the vertebrae. It may be caused by improper lifting, poor sleeping positions, and prolonged poor posture. When the facet joints are irritated they transmit signals to the nerve endings thereby resulting in pain. If you are experiencing facet joint pain, you need to contact your doctor immediately for a proper evaluation. Facet joint pain is one of the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, and osteoarthritis. Your doctor will examine your back and review your medical history to identify if there are any underlying causes.

This type of neck pain can be treated using different types of treatments that include physical therapy and medications. With physical therapy, you will be taught how to lift, walk and stretch properly to decrease the load on joints. Your physical therapist will also suggest a few exercises for your legs, back, and stomach. You may also require medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs, mechanical braces, or topical creams. You may also receive a prescription for muscle relaxants but only if the pain is severe.

If you are suffering from facet joint pain, your doctor may rely on non-surgical treatments since they are the most popular. Note that you may take too long to recover from surgical procedures. Therefore, you need to consider the pros and cons of each treatment option before choosing one. Physical therapy is beneficial in pain relief because it improves circulation, strengthens your core, and corrects your posture.

2. Muscle Strains

If you have muscle strains, you are likely going to experience neck muscle pain too. Muscle strains involve tears in your muscles that stretch too far and can cause the feeling of a stiff neck. Depending on the severity of the tear, the neck pain may be severe or mild. Sometimes, neck pain may also be caused by an injury to a ligament. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience this type of neck pain. A medical professional will prescribe pain medication. Additionally, you can do some exercises and stretches at home to ease the pain effortlessly.

Muscle Strains

Ice, massage, and heat can also be used effectively to reduce pain and swelling. You can strengthen your neck muscles by trying out some home exercise programs. Avoid pushing yourself too hard until your neck has healed properly. If you experience any type of neck pain, it’s a good idea to see a doctor immediately. Most of the causes of neck pain are easy to treat with the most common cause being muscle strains.

Note that overusing your neck can lead to these strains. Additionally, if you sleep in uncomfortable positions, you may end up suffering from neck pain. Other known causes of neck pain include bone spurs that may affect joint motion thereby resulting in pain. Herniated discs may result in neck pain as well as impair spinal cord functions. If you were recently involved in a car accident, it may also lead to injuries to the neck. This is because your head is jerked forward and backward thereby aggravating the neck muscles.

If you have recently suffered from muscle strains, you may take about 3 to 6 weeks to recover depending on the severity. You may also require physical therapy during recovery. If you experience pain for more than a week, there may be blood coming out of the muscle and you need immediate medical attention. In this case, the treatment will involve anti-inflammatories and pain relievers. Your doctor should also prescribe physical therapy to improve the strength of the affected muscle.

3. Sprains

Sprains and strains can also lead to neck pain and neck stiffness. They are quite common injuries and can be treated easily. You are likely going to suffer from mild to severe type of pain. Some of the common symptoms you may experience if you have neck sprains include aching, stiffness and pain when moving your head. They will heal within a few days. The best treatment for neck sprains involves resting and ice.

Your doctor may prescribe medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen to help ease spasms and relieve pain. Using heat therapy is another way to loosen cramped muscles. Don’t apply the heat too quickly to avoid further injury. Ideally, neck sprains may heal within 4 to 6 weeks but if it’s a severe injury, it may take longer. Note that, with a neck sprain, you will experience decreased flexibility and a sore throat in some cases.

Additionally, you are likely going to feel fatigued or irritable as well as have some trouble concentrating or sleeping. You will experience some muscle spasms as the body’s way of protecting itself. If you have been involved in an accident that caused a sudden change in your body’s position, you are likely going to experience a neck sprain. They usually affect the ligaments that connect the vertebrae together but may also affect the bursae and blood vessels. If your neck pain lasts for more than a few days, you need to consult a medical professional.

4. Tears

Any tears in the neck will cause severe pain and you need to consult a medical professional immediately. It may be caused by a dissection of an artery in your neck, among other types of issues. Note that, artery dissections in your neck may lead to a stroke. Tears in your neck are very common injuries but the causes may vary. However, the most common one is muscle strain. The muscle tissue is made up of many fibers with each being wrapped in a bundle of myofibrils containing contractile proteins.


Keep in mind that these contractible proteins are responsible for muscle contractions. If the muscle is injured, a tear may happen in one of the bundles thereby weakening the muscle. As such, it immediately becomes more susceptible to further damage. If there are small tears, your muscle may become inflamed thereby causing pain and a longer recovery time. If there is a large amount of pain in your shoulders and neck, you need to visit a medical provider immediately.

A doctor will diagnose the underlying cause of the pain and come up with the best treatment plan for you. Tears may happen due to different conditions such as bone spurs that may damage the rotator cuff tendons causing severe pain in your shoulder. If your neck pain lasts longer than 3 months, it may be a more serious problem. Also, if the neck pain spreads to other parts of your body such as the shoulder, face, or the rest of the body, it may have been caused by a herniated disc.

5. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis happens due to the narrowing of the spinal canal thereby causing back and neck pain. It happens due to previous trauma or in the event of an overgrowth in the bone area. The spinal cord will become compressed thereby causing numbness, pain, and tingling. If you’re experiencing pain in the neck it could be caused by spinal stenosis in the cervical spine. If left untreated it may lead to more serious problems. Some of the known symptoms of spinal stenosis include back pain radiating to the legs and buttocks, weakness of the arms and hands and permanent paralysis in severe cases.

Treatment for the condition depends largely on the severity of the problem and where the compression is located. Some of the treatment options include steroid injections and physical therapy. In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to provide a larger opening to the spine. If you have moderate or mild symptoms, the best treatment includes pain medications and exercise.

The surgical procedure for this condition involves going into the spinal canal to remove the overgrown bone thereby relieving pressure on the spinal nerves. Other surgical processes may include fused bones used to create more room for the spinal nerves. After a prolonged recovery, you can resume your normal life. Note that, age-related changes to your bones and spine may lead to spinal stenosis. It’s known to affect people above 50 years and occurs in men more than women but can affect both people.

6. Nerve Compression

Nerve compression is one of the most common causes of back and neck pain. Some pinched nerves may resolve themselves on their own, but others may result in permanent damage, limiting your ability to perform daily activities. A few studies have been conducted on nerve compression with different results. For instance, some results showed that nerve compression or pinched nerve may lead to more nerve pain and muscle spasm if the nerves are not decompressed at the semispinalis captis muscle. Another study also discovered that failure to decompress the nerves at the site may also lead to the recurrence of pain and chronic neck pain.

Yes, most of the studies are still inconclusive but most of the evidence points to the fact that nerve decompression may help relieve neck and back pain. The best way to diagnose if your neck pain is caused by nerve compression is to do an MRI scan. Here, your doctor will see the best images of your soft tissues including the spinal cord. They can quickly diagnose their neck pain patients to see whether there is a herniated or bulging disc. They should also be able to identify any damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots, allowing you to identify whether the problem is coming from the source of the pain or if it’s referred pain.

Some of the best treatments for neck pain include stretching and physical therapy. Here, patients may practice several slow-range motion exercises to stretch the neck muscles. Heat is a great way to stretch your neck muscles. Another great way to relieve neck pain includes proper alignment of the head, shoulder muscles, and neck using the right pillows. If you are suffering from neck pain that lasts for more than a week and was caused by an injury, it’s a good idea to consult a medical professional.