What are the possible causes of neck pain?

Many different medical issues and injuries can cause neck pain. Conditions that may cause neck pain include:

  • Aging: Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis (the wearing down of joint cartilage) and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces in the spine) can lead to neck pain as you age. Over time, stress and motion can lead to spinal disc degeneration, causing a herniated disc or pinched nerve.
  • Injury: Trauma from sudden forced movement of the neck or head and rebound in the opposite direction (whiplash) can cause pain and soreness. The muscles, ligaments, discs, vertebral joints and nerve roots in the spine cord in the neck can be affected in trauma injuries.
  • Mental stress: Tightening your neck muscles due to tension commonly causes neck pain and stiffness.
  • Physical strain: Overusing your neck muscles during repetitive actions or strenuous activities can lead to stiffness and pain.
  • Conditions that affect spinal balance: Poor posture (sitting for long periods of time; poor computer/keyboard/chair positioning), being overweight, weak abdominal muscles can all affect spine posture and contribute to neck pain.
  • Growths: In rare cases, masses including tumors, cysts and bone spurs can cause neck pain.
  • Other health conditions: Meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/12/2019.

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