Neck Pain Causes

You might be surprised by the manifoldness of neck pain causes that I will uncover for you here in this and the subsequent articles. However, most of them boil down to the general causes of muscle and joint pain, which is overuse of our body and its musculature. I really recommend reading this article. If you are pressed for time, you may bookmark or print it and read it later.

This is a series of three articles. This is part one. At the end of this page I will redirect you to part two.


Don´t Panic!


Unfavorable Sleeping Positions

Tucked Phone

Don´t Panic!

When you search the Internet, you are prone to find - beside muscle strain - the following possible causes of neck pain

Please do not believe immediately that your neck pain might be due to...

  • worn joints
  • diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or meningitis
  • herniated discs of your cervical spine
  • cervical spondylosis
  • spinal canal stenosis

Of course, all of them are real but make up the minority in neck pain causes. And even if you are suffering from worn disks or spondylosis - which should be verified by a MRI or similar – it does not mean that it is the primary cause for your pain. Surely, it might contribute to it, but did you check already for too much muscle tension or tender and trigger points in your neck muscles?

Just because the correlations between the diagnoses listed above and neck pain are high, it does not mean that they always display cause and effect - eg. worn joints => joint pain -. I just saw too many examples of old people with lots of wear and tear that are not in pain. The reason for this is a balanced musculature without - too many - tight muscles.

With neck complaints,  it is mostly tight neck muscle tissue that leaves you in pain. There are a couple of positions, actions and circumstances that those muscles do not like and in turn tighten them up.

Neck Pain Causes: Stress

Stress is probably the most common cause for a tight neck. But how can stress create pain?

Muscles in general, and especially your neck muscles are susceptible for feelings and emotions. That means everything that influences the latter, which are mostly our thoughts and inputs from our environment, alters our muscle tone. Too much tension in our muscles is a common cause of muscle and joint pain.

When you are relaxed, your muscles are/should be also relaxed. When you feel stressed, your muscles become more rigid and stiff as their tension gets elevated by your nervous system. I guess you might have recognized that already yourself.

Mostly you will get stressed when you run out of options or possible solutions in a given situation. This is what creates fear - even if you do not recognize it all the time -, and fear leads to a contraction of our muscles and thus to a higher muscle tension.

This is a well known reflex of our body and is no problem at all, as this elevation in tension usually is transient. However, when stressful situations persist, the elevation in muscle tension may become permanent. Especially your neck muscles will be affected and in turn can leave it in pain.  

Now, guidelines how to reduce or how to better cope with stress will definitely go beyond the scope of this website. Still, you can practice massage, neck relaxation and stretching exercises to keep your neck muscles smooth and/or to lower their tension, respectively.

Neck Pain Causes: Unfavorable Sleeping Positions

Sleeping with your neck tilted to the side, like it occurs often in the car or the airplane, leaves some of your neck muscles in a shortened position over a longer period of time. This is detrimental for muscles and can be a already a reason to tighten them up and to create pain in your neck.

Furthermore the shortened muscles get used to this sleeping position. When you wake, you will move your head back into its normal position. Even if you do it at a normal speed, this repositioning can be already too fast for the moment, tighten up your muscles and leave you with a stiff neck.

Especially your trapezius and levator scapulae muscles are affected by these sleeping positions and are the ones the check first if you have a stiff neck.

To avoid these sleeping positions, use a u-shaped neck cushion to prevent your neck from tilting too much sideways.

Neck Pain Causes: Tucked Phone

Tucking your phone between your shoulder and ear is not a good idea, even if it leaves you with two free hands and enables you to multi-task better. But it is just too much stress on your neck muscles. Again, the trapezius and levator muscles get affected a lot and will eventually punish you with neck pain.

When tucking your phone, those two muscles get tight over time because they are shortened permanently during this activity.

So, please do not tuck your phone between your shoulder and ear. It is not good for your neck!

To learn more, read my follow up articles.

Neck Pain Causes II

Neck Pain Causes III

On the other hand you might already want to get started with your neck pain relief.

› Neck Pain Causes I