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 orthopedic 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 their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

Confidence in Treatment Through Education

We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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