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Quick Facts

Neck Pain

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jan 2020| Content last modified Jan 2020
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Neck pain is common, especially in older people. Many of the causes of low back pain Low Back Pain The lower (lumbar) spine allows your body to turn, twist, and bend. It also gives strength for standing, walking, and lifting. The lower back is involved in almost all movement. Pain in the... read more Low Back Pain can also cause neck pain. Damage to your bones, muscles, or ligaments (short, tough bands of tissue that hold your bones together at a joint) can cause neck pain. Damage to your nerves or spinal cord can also cause neck pain.

  • Most neck pain is caused by sprains and strains—this pain gets better on its own

  • If you have neck pain and have lost strength or feeling, see a doctor right away

  • You can usually ease your neck pain with medicines (such as acetaminophen) and by not doing things that stress your neck

When should I see a doctor for my neck pain?

See your doctor right away if you have neck pain and these warning signs:

  • Loss of strength in your neck, or in one or both of your arms or legs

  • Numbness in one or both of your arms or legs

  • Fever

  • Night sweats

  • Headache

  • Tiredness or confusion

  • Chest discomfort or feeling like you can't catch your breath

  • Pain that happens or gets worse when you exercise

  • Problems with swallowing

See your doctor within a day if you have severe neck pain that isn't relieved by medicines, such as acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen, among others.

If you have neck pain without warning signs, you can wait a few days or call your doctor to talk about how soon you should be seen.

What causes neck pain?

The most common cause of neck pain is:

  • Muscle strain or ligament sprains

Other common causes include:

Less common causes that are serious:

What will happen at my doctor visit?

How do doctors treat neck pain?

Doctors will:

How can I prevent neck pain?

  • Exercise, including muscle-strengthening and stretching exercises

  • Keep your back straight when standing and sitting

  • Sleep on your back or side with your head supported, but not raised

  • Don't stand or sit for long periods

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OTHER TOPICS IN THIS CHAPTER

Neck and Low Back Pain
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Test your knowledge

Preventive Health Care Visits in Infants
Frequent doctor visits are recommended for all infants younger than 1 year of age. These visits, also called well-child visits, make it possible to check development, look for health problems, provide age-appropriate vaccinations, and educate parents. Which of the following is a condition that might affect some infants born very prematurely, with less than 32 weeks of development in the uterus?
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