neck pain
Pain Management

The 7 Kinds of Neck Pain - and How to Recognize Them

Neck pain is very common; according to Harvard Medical School experts, an estimated seven out of every 10 people will have neck pain at some point. But, the Harvard experts say, you’ll get the most relief for your neck pain if you know what kind you’re experiencing. Here, from the Harvard experts, are the most common types of neck pain

Muscle pain.  You may have sore or aching neck and shoulder muscles for a number of reasons, including overexertion or prolonged physical or emotional stress. According to the Harvard experts, the neck muscles can develop trigger points – hard knots that are tender to touch.

Muscle spasm. The Harvard experts say that a muscle spasm is a sudden, powerful tightening of neck muscles. Symptoms can include a painful or “knotted” neck, and an inability to even turn your head. If you wake up with a painful, stiff neck, the experts say, that’s probably a muscle spasm. There are a number of possible causes, including a spinal disc or nerve problem, or emotional stress.

Headache. Any headache related to the neck is usually felt in the back of the head and the upper neck. The Harvard experts say that it’s usually caused by muscle tension or spasm.

Neck-related headache is most often felt in the back of the head and upper neck and is usually the result of muscle tension or spasm. The pain is usually dull or achy, as opposed to sharp. Your neck may also feel stiff or tender, and moving your neck may Neck-related headache pain is usually dull or aching, rather than sharp; the neck might also feel stiff or tender. If you move your neck, that makes the pain worse.

Facet joint pain. Often described as deep, sharp, or aching, pain in the facet joints (part of the vertebrae of the neck) typically worsens if you lean your head toward the affected side, the Harvard experts say, and may radiate to your shoulder or upper back. Arthritis in the facet joints, as in other locations, may feel worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity.

Nerve pain. Irritation or pinching of the roots of the spinal nerves causes pain that may be sharp, the Harvard experts say. It may be fleeting, severe, or accompanied by pins and needles. Depending on the nerve involved, the pain may shoot down the arm or into the hand.

Referred pain. This term means that pain in one part of the body that is triggered by a problem in another part of the body. For example, neck pain that worsens with exertion may indicate a heart problem, while neck pain that occurs when you eat may stem from a problem in the esophagus.

Bone pain. Pain and tenderness in the cervical vertebrae are far less common than neck pain from the soft tissues. Bone pain needs medical attention because it may signal a more serious health problem.

The Harvard experts emphasize that there are a lot of things you and your doctor can do to treat and manage your pain, including self-help techniques and non-prescription pain medicine.