What are Common Causes of Neck Muscle Pain?

Meshell Powell

Neck muscle pain is a common problem and can become debilitating if not treated properly. There are many potential causes of pain involving the muscles of the neck, including stress, muscle strains, and nerve compression. Treatment options for neck muscle pain are as varied as the causes of the pain, but may include heat or ice therapy, medications, or physical therapy. Making simple lifestyle changes such as improving posture or changing the type of mattress or pillows used when sleeping can sometimes be beneficial as well.

Poor posture while using a computer can cause neck muscle pain.
Poor posture while using a computer can cause neck muscle pain.

Stress is a major cause of neck muscle pain. Worry and fear concerning everyday events can cause the muscles of the neck to become tense and tight. This often leads to significant neck pain as well as headaches. Learning relaxation techniques or yoga can often lessen everyday stresses and relieve neck pain. Taking frequent short breaks throughout the day in order to relax and stretch the neck muscles may help as well.

An ice pack, which can help with neck muscle pain.
An ice pack, which can help with neck muscle pain.

Muscle strains are a common cause of neck muscle pain. This can be caused by overusing the muscles or practicing improper posture, such as leaning the head forward too much while performing activities such as reading or driving. Teeth grinding can cause the muscles of the neck to become strained as well. Applying ice to the sore muscles can often help to relieve the pain as well. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen may help to ease the pain and inflammation of overworked muscles.

Teeth grinding may cause neck muscle pain.
Teeth grinding may cause neck muscle pain.

Nerve compression is often responsible for neck muscle pain. If the discs of the upper part of the spine become damaged, the surrounding nerves can be compressed, or pinched. This often causes the nearby muscles to become inflamed, leading to sharp, shooting pains in the neck. A chiropractor can often adjust the spine, thereby relieving the pressure and swelling causing the neck muscle pain.

Stress can cause the muscles of the neck to become tight and tense.
Stress can cause the muscles of the neck to become tight and tense.

An improper sleeping position is another common cause of neck muscle pain. The ideal position for sleeping is lying flat on the back with a pillow or two placed under the knees to assist in proper spinal alignment. A special pillow, known as a cervical traction neck pillow, can help to hold the neck in the optimum position for sleep. This sleep position causes the least amount of stress to the upper portion of the spine, and many patients have reported significant improvements in the amount of neck muscle pain after learning to sleep in this position.

An improper sleep position can cause neck muscle pain.
An improper sleep position can cause neck muscle pain.
Poor posture may cause neck pain.
Poor posture may cause neck pain.
A doctor can help determine the cause of neck muscle pain.
A doctor can help determine the cause of neck muscle pain.
A chiropractor might be able to help with neck pain caused by nerve compression.
A chiropractor might be able to help with neck pain caused by nerve compression.

Discussion Comments

serenesurface

I have chronic neck muscle pain too. My doctor thinks that it's because of my bruxism. I grind my teeth at night and then I have jaw and neck pain during the day.

Has anyone else experienced this? How did you treat it? Do mouth guards work?

bear78

@turkay1-- I think you should get an orthopedic pillow, it makes a huge difference.

Do you have a stressful job? Or do you work in front of the computer all day? These also cause the muscles in the neck to tighten and ache.

I have this problem. When I get stressed, my blood pressure rises and my neck muscles start to cause problems. It doesn't help that I have poor posture while working on the computer. I'm thinking about getting a cervical collar. I'm not sure if it will help with my neck and shoulder pain but it's worth a try.

candyquilt

I wake up with neck muscle pain all the time. My pillow isn't orthopedic, but it's not that bad either. My neck is often stiff and painful in the mornings. It tends to get better during the day.

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