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Common neck injuries and conditions

Overview of common neck injuries and conditions

Your neck has muscles, vertebrae, spinal discs, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. When you injure or damage any of these tissues, neck problems such as pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion can occur.

At Dignity Health, our skilled orthopedic doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide range of common neck injuries to reduce discomfort and restore mobility. Find a Doctor to fit your needs today.


The signs and symptoms of common neck conditions vary depending on the specific problem and what part of the neck is affected. Neck pain is a common symptom of any neck condition, however. Neck conditions also commonly cause pain that spreads from the neck to the head, shoulders, jaw, or even the upper arms.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Decreased ability to move your head
  • Numbness, tingling, weakness
  • Loss of feeling (sensation) in your arms or hands 

Call 911 right away if neck pain or any of the above symptoms are the result of an accident such as a fall or other injury.


The causes of neck conditions vary depending on the specific problem.

Neck pain is often the result of muscle strain or damage to the bones of the upper spine.

Trauma, such as from a broken neck, neck sprain, or whiplash, is the most common cause of neck injury. Car and other motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sports-related impact are examples of trauma. They may cause soft tissue injuries to the neck muscles, or fractures of the spine.

Other neck conditions, including arthritis, pinched nerves, and spondylosis, are the result of degenerative diseases in the spine or aging.

Rarely, cancers such as throat cancer and thyroid cancer can also cause neck pain.


Some of the most common neck problems include:

  • Neck fracture (cervical vertebrae)
  • Neck sprain
  • Pinched nerve
  • Spondylosis, or arthritis in the neck
  • Whiplash

Risk factors

Some of the most common risk factors for neck pain include:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Impact from higher-risk sports such as skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics, wrestling, biking, and horseback riding
  • History of herniated discs
  • Age
  • Overuse from repetitive motion
  • Sleeping in an awkward position
  • Poor posture, particularly when sitting or working at a desk
  • Strain from sitting at an office desk for long hours, especially if the monitor is not correctly set up
  • Engaging in an occupation or hobby that puts a strain on the neck muscles or requires bending over


To prevent neck injuries, always use your seatbelt and wear protective equipment during sports and potentially dangerous situations. Learning proper body mechanics and avoiding overuse of your neck can also protect your neck from strain.

If you begin to experience neck pain, reducing your activity instead of “pushing through” or continuing the activity that caused the pain can reduce the chances of it becoming worse.

You may also be able to prevent further injury and alleviate discomfort by improving your posture, changing the pillow you sleep on, or improving the ergonomics of your work environment. This might include increasing the height of a computer monitor, or elevating your work space to avoid leaning over for long periods of time.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.