Sudden Onset Neck Pain


Many people experience nagging or sharp neck pain at some time in their lives. It can range from minor to severe and can prevent you from functioning at full capacity. Sometimes simple home care can rid you of the pain within a few days. There are signs you can look for to know if your sudden onset of neck pain needs medical attention.

Woman touching neck
Woman touching neck (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)


Our neck is responsible for holding our head up all day and is the pathway for nerves from the brain to the spinal cord. Unless you are lying down or looking straight ahead, with the chin slightly downward, the neck is in a strain.

Man in office
Man in office (Image: Todd Warnock/Lifesize/Getty Images)


Neck pain can be accompanied by back or shoulder pain. Sudden onset of neck pain can be a dull ache or a sharp pain. Your neck may be extremely stiff, making it nearly impossible to go about your daily routine.

Mother lifting son
Mother lifting son (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)


Neck pain can be a result of bad posture while working, or simply sleeping in an awkward position.

Overuse of your neck muscles can cause pain according to the Mayo Clinic. Straining these muscle is common when you are hunched over your desk for hours or doing a new activity that your body is not used to.

Osteoporosis can be responsible for neck pain. Your neck joints can experience wear and tear over time just like other parts of your body. This is a part of the normal aging process.

Injuries such as accidentally being knocked down in a crowd can cause neck pain. The forward and backward snap can stretch your muscles beyond their natural reach.

Disorders of the disk that separate the vertebrae may cause neck pain. As we age, our bodies tend to lose the cushioning effects of the disks. Bony spurs may occur on the spinal column and irritate the nerves in our neck.

Woman touching neck
Woman touching neck (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Home Care

Alternating heat and ice for 20 minutes at a time and repeating a few times a day is an effective way to reduce muscle strain and inflammation. Gentle stretching exercises or massage will loosen tight muscles. Soaking in a hot tub of water or even standing beneath the warm water spray in a shower can help. Using pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are helpful. Resting your neck from holding your head up is beneficial also, but take care not to oversleep or it could cause further stiffness.

Woman soaking in tub
Woman soaking in tub (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


Good posture is essential in preventing neck pain. Doing neck exercises on a daily basis will help to keep your neck strong and flexible. One such exercise is trying to touch your ear to your shoulder slowly, repeat on the other side with repetitions of five on each side. Turning your neck side to side slowly and gently and trying to look further back each time is a good strength-building exercise. Remember not to force your neck; these strengthening exercises should not increase your pain.

Avoid sleeping on your stomach and use a good quality pillow that supports your head.

Take frequent breaks while working at your desk, or while driving for a long period of time. Get up and do some stretching, and always be careful to maintain a straight posture. Adjust your computer monitor so that it is at eye level.

Avoid talking with a telephone tucked between your shoulder and ear; using a headset is beneficial if you communicate a lot via phone.

Woman in yoga pose
Woman in yoga pose (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)


Seek medical advice if home treatment does not remedy the problem within a few days. Go to the doctor immediately if you experience any of these signs: severe pain after an injury, a shooting pain in the shoulder or back area (which may or may not be accompanied by tingling or numbness), weakness in an arm or leg and sudden loss of bladder or bowel control.

Woman at doctors office
Woman at doctors office (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

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