Due to hurricane damage, the Havelock location is closed until further notice. Havelock therapists Hannah Zhang, Sarah Hall and Judy Hickes are available to see patients at the New Bern location. Please call the New Bern location at (252) 636-9800 to discuss your care.

5 causes of sudden neck pain and how to treat them

sudden neck pain

The onset of sudden neck pain can be a serious problem, yet it’s often ignored. While many people will brush off neck pain as minor or unimportant, it can greatly impact your overall quality of life. Often, neck pain will impact other conditions such as migraines, tension headaches or even nerve pain. Each nerve root in your upper vertebrae is linked with other parts of your body, which can contribute to a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms. If you address your neck pain, you may also alleviate other symptoms or conditions that have been troubling you.

Sudden neck pain should never be pushed aside. If you are experiencing sudden, severe neck pain, call 911, go to the ER and inform your general practitioner right away.

What are the symptoms of sudden neck pain?

Pain in the neck manifests in multiple ways. Some are obvious, while others might be a surprise. Here is a list of some of the more common symptoms of sudden neck pain:

  • Chronic migraines and tension headaches.
  • Loss of full neck functionality, including becoming unable to turn one’s head completely.
  • Soreness in the neck, shoulder and upper back area.
  • Stabbing pains, especially in the neck.
  • Pain radiating from the neck and shoulders to the fingertips.
  • Nausea.
  • Impeded vision.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Severe fatigue.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

If you have chronic neck pain, you may experience one or more of these symptoms over long periods of time. When left untreated, these symptoms may worsen.

What causes sudden neck pain?

There are many reasons you may experience neck pain. While sudden neck pain can occur after an accident or injury, it can also be the result of less obvious causes. Some reasons behind sudden neck pain include:

  • Car accidentHigh levels of continuous neck pain are often reported after a car accident. Whiplash is a common cause of post-accident neck pain.
  • Sport-related injury — Minor sprains, strains and contusions are common causes of neck pain in athletes, which can have a negative impact on their performance.
  • Poor posture — Sitting at a desk for hours on end can have a significant impact on your posture. Studies showed that there is an association between neck problems and postural abnormalities.
  • Driving long distances — Sitting in the same position for a long time and increased tension in the muscles can contribute to neck pain in drivers.
  • Arthritis — Inflammation or the breakdown of cartilage due to arthritis can trigger sudden neck pain in some people.

If you determine the cause of your sudden neck pain, it may be easier to treat. Our expert physical therapists can help you figure out the root of your pain and how best to approach it. Knowing what caused the pain may even help you prevent it from happening again in the future.

How to treat sudden neck pain

If sudden neck pain is disrupting your way of life, there are several treatments that may help: 

  • Medication — Pain relievers such as NSAIDs or muscle relaxants may be prescribed to help with pain or muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy — Working with a physical therapist can help you strengthen muscles and regain mobility.
  • Surgery — In some severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct serious problems in the neck and spine area.

One or more of these methods may be used to help you address your sudden neck pain. Meet with a certified specialist to figure out which treatment is right for you.

How physical therapy can impact sudden neck pain

Your neck pain may be impacting your life in ways you don’t even realize. Physical therapy can help with pain and may also improve other symptoms such as migraines, reduced shoulder mobility, and even poor balance and grip strength. Here are some common physical therapy techniques that our team can help you utilize:

  • Manual therapyHands-on techniques such as joint mobilization and strain-counterstrain can help modulate pain, reduce inflammation, increase range of motion and reduce restriction.
  • Dry needling — A highly trained expert will insert a thin needle through the skin into muscles, tendons, ligaments and close to nerves. This medical technique can immediately reduce pain levels and tension. 
  • Electrical stimulation — TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and other forms of electrical stimulation use self-adhesive electrodes placed around the body to disrupt or decrease the sensation of pain.
  • Therapeutic exercise — Using a custom therapeutic exercise plan, your physical therapist will assist you in stretching and strengthening your muscles to try to increase flexibility and reduce pain and discomfort.

Our team will use these and other therapies to build a unique program specifically for your body’s needs. We will also teach you ergonomic and posture tips to help you better position yourself in your day-to-day life.

Take a step toward healing

While many people ignore neck pain for as long as possible, it may not go away on its own. Don’t wait until your condition worsens to seek help. With the right therapies, you can work toward less pain and more of the activities that you love. 
Call us or request an appointment today to learn more about how we can help you take control of your neck pain.