5 Common Causes of Neck Pain

5 Common Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain is pretty common — it affects up to 75% of people worldwide. The cause can be as simple as sleeping on an unsupportive pillow or as serious as cancer.

Our specialists, led by Dinash Yanamadula, MD, at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, diagnose and treat all kinds of neck pain. Here are five of the most common causes of cervical pain we see.

1. Muscle strain

Your neck has to do some fairly heavy lifting. Considering your head weighs about 10-11 pounds, it’s easy to imagine that a wrong move can strain the muscles and ligaments charged with supporting that weight at the top of your spine. 

You can strain your muscles doing everyday things like texting, sitting at your computer with poor posture, or playing video games for hours. 

This type of muscle strain is often called “tech neck,” a term coined to describe the neck pain that stems from using electronic devices. 

When you bend your neck to look at your screens, it increases the strain on your neck. A 45-degree head tilt increases the force on your neck as if your head weighs 49 pounds, and a 60-degree tilt — common when your chin gets close to your chest during texting sessions — forces your neck to support 60 pounds of pressure.

2. Degenerative diseases

As you age, your body parts wear out, and this is especially true in your neck. Over time, years of twisting and bending take their toll. When the cartilage between your vertebral discs wears thin, you end up with osteoarthritis, a progressive disease that causes inflammation and stiffness in your cervical spine.

Similarly, degenerative disc disease wears away the cushiony discs between your vertebrae, causing weakness, shooting pain, and tingling and numbness.


Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that can affect your neck. This autoimmune disorder occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues. 

3. Trauma

Any force to the head or neck can injure your cervical spine and cause lasting pain and disability. Sport injuries are common causes of neck pain, especially in contact sports, such as football, rugby, and lacrosse, but you can also experience a neck injury playing tennis, golf, or soccer. Gymnastics can also lead to severe neck pain.

Anything that forces your neck forward and back or side to side, can potentially damage the muscles and ligaments in your neck. One of the most common sources of this type of injury is a car crash. Rear-end collisions send your head forward and snap it back in a violent movement, and the result is whiplash, a straining and tearing of your ligaments. 

4. Nerve compression

Your spinal column is the hub for all your nerves, and they pass in and out on their way to the rest of your body. Because your spine is a narrow space, any impingement can compress your nerves and cause pain in your neck or anywhere along the nerve path. 

Herniated discs that bulge out after an impact injury or a rupture are common culprits. Bone spurs, which develop when two vertebrae rub against one another unprotected, can also irritate nearby nerves and lead to neck pain.

5. Tumors

Tumors, another cause of neck pain, can be either cancerous or noncancerous. Primary tumors can occur inside or outside the dural sac, which is the protective fluid-filled area around your spine. These types of cervical spine tumors are relatively rare and only account for less than 1% of all spinal tumors.

However, metastatic tumors, the kind that spread to your spine from somewhere else in your body, are much more common. When these tumors press on your nerves, they cause pain, tingling, and numbness. 

Treatment for neck pain

Dr. Yanamadula offers the most advanced treatments for neck pain, and he always starts with the most conservative options first. His goal is to not only relieve your pain but identify and resolve the source of the pain. 

Depending on your condition, he may recommend:

These treatments work to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and restore your range of motion. 

If you’re experiencing neck pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Yanamadula over the phone or online, and get to the bottom of your neck pain.

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