Sore or Tight Neck

Your neck includes the cervical spine (top part of the spine), the discs between each bone in the cervical spine, nerves, muscles and joints. Neck pain is any kind of discomfort you may have in any part of your neck.

Many times, neck pain is caused by poor body mechanics (not moving your body correctly or safely). This can include having poor posture, using a computer, a laptop or another mobile device that is positioned too high or too low, lifting things improperly or sleeping in the wrong position.

Neck pain is also a symptom of many medical conditions, including:

  • Spondylosis (osteoarthritis of the spine)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Ruptured disc
  • Neck sprain
  • Traumatic neck injury
  • Infections in the neck
  • Spinal cancer

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Signs and symptoms of neck pain may include:

  • Feeling like the muscles in your neck are sore or tight
  • Stiffness that makes it difficult to move your neck up and down or from side to side
  • Tingling, weakness or numbness in your arm or hand

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if your neck pain:

  • Is the result of a severe injury
  • Is accompanied by a fever and headache, and you cannot touch your chin to your chest
  • Comes with symptoms of a heart attack
  • Happens with any other concerning signs or symptoms, such as trouble breathing or keeping your balance

Neck pain that is caused by poor body mechanics can often be treated at home with self-care, such as taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, applying ice or heat and doing neck stretches and exercises.

If self-care doesn’t improve your symptoms, your doctor can help you determine the exact cause of your pain by reviewing your medical history, asking you questions about daily activities that could be contributing to your pain and performing a physical exam. Imaging and blood tests are usually only required if your doctor suspects another condition is causing your neck pain, or the pain was caused by a severe injury.

With the right diagnosis and treatment, your neck pain can be managed well. Individualized, targeted treatments work to relieve the pain for most patients.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopaedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Complete, Multidisciplinary Specialty Care

Neck pain at Penn State Health is treated by experts at Penn State Health Spine Center. As part of Penn State Bone and Joint Institute, this specialty center offers focused, advanced therapies for both common and complex back and neck conditions. Fellowship-trained providers from neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pain management, radiology, physiatry and more work closely to give you the most complete, efficient care and best patient outcomes.

Dedicated Back and Neck Pain Program

Developed by Penn State Health Spine Center, the Back Coach [Link to:] is a dedicated program designed to provide you with the information, resources and support you need to understand and manage your pain. Through this program, you can learn the causes of back and neck pain and the treatments available, and send your questions to our spine care experts.

The Back Coach also includes an app for your mobile device that lets you track and manage your neck pain so you can really understand what’s causing your pain and what works to relieve it – a key part to treating back and neck pain.

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

When neck pain is caused by a spine condition that requires surgery, our fellowship-trained neurosurgeons and orthopaedic spine surgeons provide the highest-level care. This is demonstrated by the Blue Distinction designation given to Penn State Health Spine Center by BlueCross BlueShield.

As a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery, the center and its surgeons have been recognized for delivering expert spine surgery care. This respected designation is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for providing superior treatment.

Advancing Spine Care Through Research

Penn State Health includes Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania. In partnership with colleagues at Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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