Can Neck Pain be a Sign of Something Serious?

Stiff? Achy? Two in three of us will suffer neck pain at some point. It’s hardly surprising – the neck is a miracle of natural engineering, allowing us to twist our heads in all directions while still supporting the weight of our skulls and protecting the vital nerves connecting our brains with the rest of our body.

Neck pain is a very common problem affecting the adult population at any point in time. This pain confines from a dull ache to an electric-shock type of sensation which makes a person unable to perform tasks with the same active attitude as before. Though less common than back pain, neck pain affects an estimated 45 percent of adults in the U.S. There are different classifications and causes of neck pain, and in some cases, neck pain can be preventable. Neck pain is generally classified as either acute pain or chronic pain. In most cases, neck pain does not require surgical intervention and will improve over time with exercises, medication and chiropractic care. In some severe cases, surgery may be the only means of eliminating pain in the neck due to an injury or chronic condition.

Most of the time, neck pain isn’t a serious condition and can be relieved within a few days. In some cases, neck pain can indicate serious injury or illness and require a doctor’s care. If you have neck pain that continues for more than a week, is severe, or is accompanied by other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Causes of neck pain

  • Poor posture
  • Working at a desk for too long without changing position
  • Sleeping with your neck in a bad position
  • Jerking the neck during exercise
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Infections
  • Abscesses
  • Tumors
  • Cancer of the spine

Other Causes:

  1. Injury

The neck is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially during falls, car accidents, and sports, where the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move outside of their normal range. If the neck bones, or cervical vertebrae, are fractured, the spinal cord may also be damaged. Neck injury due to the sudden jerking of the head is commonly called whiplash.

  1. Heart attack

Neck pain can also be a symptom of a heart attack, but it often presents with other symptoms of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, arm or jaw pain

If your neck hurts and you have other symptoms of heart attack, call an ambulance or go to the emergency room immediately.

  • Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. In people who have meningitis, a fever and a headache often occur with a stiff neck. Meningitis can be fatal and is a medical emergency. If you have the symptoms of meningitis, seek help immediately.

  1. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling of the joints, and bone spurs. When these occur in the neck area, neck pain can result.

  1. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis weakens bones and can lead to small fractures. This condition often happens in the hands or knees, but it can also occur in the neck.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout the body, especially in the neck and shoulder region. As you age, the cervical discs can degenerate. This is known as spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the neck. This can narrow the space between the vertebrae and adds stress to your joints.

  1. Herniated Cervical Disk Rupture

When a disk protrudes, as from a trauma or injury, it may add pressure to the spinal cord or nerve roots. This is called a herniated cervical disk, also known as a ruptured or slipped disk.

  • Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows and causes pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots as it exits the vertebrae. This can be due to long-term inflammation caused by arthritis or other conditions.