Neck Pain

Approximately 14 percent of U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) suffer from neck pain, which can occur in any of the tissues of the neck. It may be accompanied by muscle stiffness, numbness or weakness.

Neck pain has several common causes:
  • Degenerative disk disease (weakening of the vertebrae caused by aging)
  • Neck strain
  • Whiplash (injuries sustained by a sudden distortion of the neck)
  • Herniated disk
  • Trauma
  • Viral infections with lymph node swelling
  • Tumors
  • Abnormalities in the bone or joint
  • Poor posture

Tuberculosis, osteomyelitis and meningitis are among the more rare and, frequently, serious causes of neck pain.

Other potential causes of increased neck pain include contact sports and the results of car accidents.

Neck pain can be decreased through the following actions:
  • Maintain a straight posture while walking, sitting or standing
  • Get regular exercise and maintain a reasonable body weight
  • Use a chair with good back support
  • Take regular breaks to walk around (if your job requires long periods seated)


Treating Neck Pain
  • Mild neck pain can be treated many ways:
  • Heat or ice the painful area (ice in the first two or three days, heat afterward)
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Rest and cease demanding physical activity for a few days
  • Massage the sore area
  • Sleep on a firmer mattress or with a special neck pillow
Neck pain that lasts several weeks or more moves from an acute (sudden) to chronic (long-term) stage . Although chronic pain develops from various conditions, relief can come from stretching, massage, exercise and physical therapy to address persistent pain. For more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants or narcotics. Surgery is rarely needed for neck pain unless there is a threat to the spine or to surrounding nerves. At Houston Methodist, a multidisciplinary team of doctors determines the best course of treatment for each individual patient.