Neck pain is a common symptom. It is commonly caused by strained neck muscles due to improper position of the neck for prolonged periods. Cervical spondylosis is another common condition that causes neck pain.

Neck pain and the accompanying symptoms and signs can often help to diagnose the cause of the pain

There are several conditions that have neck pain as one of the symptoms. Such conditions include cervical osteoarthritis, heart attack, high blood pressure, cancer, degeneration of the cervical vertebrae, trauma, meningitis, and more.

Common neck pain signs and symptoms

This post focuses on symptom of neck pain associated with other accompanying symptoms and the possible cause.  

  • Pain with neck stiffness, vomiting, and a headache can be diagnostic of meningitis.
  • Cervical pains and stiffness that often chronically bother you are due to its most common cause: improper posture and tight cervical muscles. You could follow certain tips to prevent this type of pain from bothering you.
  • Symptoms of throat and neck cancer will manifest as
    • neck pain and a non-healing ulcer in the mouth, or
    • persistent sore throat and hoarseness,
    • a lump in the neck,
    • swollen lymph glands in the neck.
  • You may have pain on the left side of the neck if your left neck muscle is strained and similarly on the right side if your right-sided muscle is strained.
    • There will also be pain behind the ear because the tendons of these neck muscles end in the mastoid process, which is situated behind the ear. When these neck muscles are strained, it causes pain at the site of the mastoid process.
    • There will be tenderness on the strained muscle.
    • A headache and shoulder pain often accompany pain in the neck due to strained neck muscles.
    • A stiff neck is a very common accompanying symptom.
  • A pinched nerve in the cervical spine area will give neck and shoulder pain, which can radiate to the hand. There may be accompanying tingling, numbness, and weakness in one hand or both hands. This is commonly due to cervical spondylosis.
  • Dizziness may be another accompanying symptom. This can suggest that the vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the brain is being compressed by the degenerative changes in the spine.
  • Neck pain and dizziness could also be due to a syndrome is called cervicogenic dizziness.

The following symptoms of neck pain suggest serious causes and need medical intervention.

  • The symptom of neck pain or stiffness persists after one week in spite of home care treatment and painkillers and increases in severity.
  • You may also have a lump or swelling in the neck. Either the local lymph glands are swollen due to infection or cancer or the swelling could be a growth
  • You have numbness, tingling, and weakness in one or both hands, which coexist with the pain symptom. This could be caused by cervical spondylosis. This symptom of neck pain is caused by a pinched nerve
  • Whiplash is a neck injury due to rapid back-to-front movement of the neck commonly caused by car accidents, sports accidents, physical fights, or fall. the main symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, headache, neck stiffness, painful and limited neck movement, tingling in arms, dizziness, and more.
  • You lose control over your bowels and bladder. This could be caused by the involvement of the spinal cord, either by a herniating intervertebral disc or a growth or a bony spur.
  • The symptom of neck stiffness is marked and your chin cannot touch the chest. This could be the sign of meningitis (infection of the membranes of the brain).
  • Jaw pain sometimes accompanies neck pain. The pain of a heart attack can radiate to the neck and further on to your jaw. You can then have jaw pain together with neck pain.
  • Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can also cause jaw pain, which can radiate to the neck. If the left TMJ is involved, you will have accompanying left-sided pain. In case of the right TMJ involvement, you will have right-sided pain. TMJ is the joint in front of the ear and joins the jawbone and the temporal bone of the skull.
  • Symptoms of neck pain and fatigue could be due to certain underlying causes such as muscle strain, meningitis, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and more.

Tests to diagnose the cause of neck pain

When conservative therapy for neck pain does not relieve you of the pain, the following tests are done to diagnose the causes of the pain symptom.

  • Blood tests to rule out infection
  • X-ray of the neck to rule out any bony pathology such as a tumor and cervical spondylosis
  • Cervical CT scan
  • Cervical MRI

Both these radiological tests will help to rule out any birth or acquired bone defects such as fractures, tumors, herniated discs, sclerosis, spinal stenosis, cervical spondylosis, and more.

  • Electromyography (EMG) is done to look for any pathology in the muscles and the nerves that control them.
  • A lumbar puncture or spinal tap is done to rule out meningitis.