Neck pain is a common condition that will affect most people at some point in their lives. Many different things can cause neck pain, which is usually not the sign of a more serious condition.
The pain often spreads from the neck towards the shoulders or upper back, and it often causes headaches.
Common causes of neck pain include:
- poor posture (the way your body is positioned when standing or sitting)
- sleeping in an awkward position
- injury such as a muscle strain
- prolonged use of a desktop or laptop computer
- wear and tear in the bones of the neck, which is a normal part of ageing.
Rare causes of neck pain include:
You should see a doctor if:
- the pain is getting worse
- the pain doesn’t ease up in a week or so
- you have numbness, tingling or pins and needles in your arms or legs
- you start having difficulties with your bladder or bowel
- you have a fever as well as neck pain.
Suspicion of deliberate harm
If there is any suspicion that these symptoms were caused deliberately and were not the result of an accident, you should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible. This could be a nurse or doctor at an emergency department (ED) or doctor surgery, or a health visitor or school nurse. If you are unsure who to speak to, we would strongly urge you to call 1800 022 222 to discuss your concerns.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your neck pain, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015