The idiom, “a pain in the neck” refers to someone or something that is very annoying. If you suffer from chronic neck pain, you know it can be so annoying that the phrase could be regarded as the ultimate insult!

While we can’t help you with irksome people or situations, we trust this article will help you better understand and manage your chronic neck and back pain:

  1. Symptoms and causes of chronic neck pain
  2. What to do for chronic neck pain
  3. How to prevent a stiff neck.

Most Common Causes of Chronic Neck Pain

Looking at the neck anatomy on a model skeleton, it is not surprising that 78.3% of adults are afflicted with a (physical) pain in the neck. Indications include:

  • Stiff neck muscles that make it difficult and sore to turn your head
  • A sharp or general pain that is exacerbated when your head is in one position for long periods
  • A sudden spasm or knotting of your neck muscles
  • Dull, aching headache – often the result of tension in your neck muscles

Chronic neck pain causes may be obvious and occur immediately after an injury, or they could develop slowly over time:

  • Injuries such as whiplash or even after sleeping awkwardly
  • Muscle strains can be caused by too much time in front of a computer or reading in bed, or even overuse from moshing at a rock concert.
  • Worn joints and bone spurs reduce range of motion that leads to pain
  • Nerve compression because of herniated disks or vertebral bone spurs
  • Some diseases can cause neck pain – IE: meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, or even some cancers.

The Serious Consequences of Delaying Treatment

Chronic neck pain relief is the most frequent reason patients seek treatment. While you may only need OTC medication, ice (for inflammation), or heat (for tight muscles), to help manage symptoms, there are certain red flags to watch out for. Contact the Head and Neck Centers of Excellence if you experience neck and/or shoulder pain which:

  • Is severe and/or getting worse
  • Bothers you for numerous days without relief
  • Radiates into your arms or legs
  • Is accompanied by a headache, numbness, tingling, or weakness in arms or legs
  • Difficulties with balance or coordination.

Delaying treatment can lead to permanent nerve damage or a progressive degenerative condition. Rather err on the side of caution.


Avoid chronic neck pain with these preventative measures:

  • Correcting your posture when standing or sitting so that your head is centered over your spine. When you are sleeping, align your head and neck with your body where your chin remains in alignment with your sternum. This creates a neutral neck position, and will ease muscle contraction during sleep.
  • Stay active, move around, and stretch your neck and shoulders – especially when you are in one position for hours on end. If you work at a computer, a good practice is to set an alarm for every 40 minutes, to remind you to take 60-90 seconds and stretch your neck.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Be ergonomically aware at work – screen in line with your eyes and monitor is in front of you, as opposed to off to the side, knees slightly below hips, and elbows supported.  Feet flat on the floor. Avoid carrying heavy bags over one shoulder only, rather alternate shoulders.

Book an appointment with a specialist at The Head and Neck Centers of Excellence for chronic neck pain treatment that will determine the root cause and correct the underlying cause of your pain instead of just treating the symptoms.