Health Info

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General Health - Neck Pain Ache

There are many types of neck pain and many causes. Neck injuries vary from minor injuries that heal in several days to more serious injuries that take considerably longer.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

Acute Torticollis:

There is rapid onset (usually on awakening) of pain on one side of the neck with deviation of the neck to that side. It is frequently caused by exposure to cold or prolonged positioning of the neck in an unusual position. The condition usually resolves in a few days. Localized muscle spasm occurs due to muscle fatigue, environmental factors, or nerve irritation.

Neck Pain Syndrome:

The pain may be present for days to years and is often associated with limited range of motion, cracking, increased “lordosis” (chin forward) posture, and sore “trigger” points in neck or upper back muscles. Various factors cause the pain and stiffness alone and in combination: muscle tension, incorrect posture, nerve root irritation, degeneration of disks or joints. No matter what the inciting cause or causes, all of these factors can interact to form a vicious cycle of pain—muscle tightness—incorrect posture—more pain.

Acute Neck Strain:

There is either a sudden twist or prolonged abnormal posture with tenderness localized in one area. You may not experience pain until a day after the injury. Note: This type of injury is often called a “whiplash” when it involved forced flexion/extension of the neck. Usually it resolves in 1 week to 3 months.


In most cases neck pain can be treated conservatively with methods below.

Cold and Heat


Massage may be helpful in relieving muscle spasm and can be performed after icing or heating the neck.


Taking ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) to reduce inflammation and break the pain spasm cycle may be helpful. (Follow label directions, unless instructed otherwise.) You may be prescribed other medications, including pain relievers and/or muscle relaxants. Take only as directed on the bottle.

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Pay attention to posture. Most people put extra strain on their necks because of poor posture.

Try to be aware of the following:

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Follow the relaxation technique printed below at least twice a day at first:

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Neck Exercises

Perform the following neck exercises at least twice daily:

Chin Tucks:Tuck in your chin without bending your neck; feel the back of your neck flatten. Hold for a few seconds and relax. Repeat ten times.

Range of Motion:With your chin tucked in as in the first exercise, turn your head as far as it will go to each side and hold for a few seconds; then lean your head to each side and hold for a few seconds. Still keeping your chin tucked in, do the same thing going forward. Repeat the whole process three times.

Shoulder Shrugs: With your arms relaxed at your sides, bring your shoulders up and then back; hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat ten times.

If neck pain is persistent, physical therapy or other interventions may be ordered by healthcare worker.

When to Contact Medical Help

If you develop any new, prolonged or more severe symptoms, such as those in the list below, call the advice nurse at 863-4463 or consult your health care provider.

If University Health Services is closed, go to Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department or call 911 for an ambulance.


In an emergency go to Mount Nittany Medical Center or call 911 for an ambulance.

Test Results and Advice Nurse

Send secure message to advice nurse via the UHS website or call 814- 863-4463.


Appointments can be made online via the UHS website, by phone 814-863-0774, or in person. If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call or go online to cancel. Otherwise you will be charged for the visit.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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