Top 5 Causes of Acute Neck Pain

Neck pain, also called cervical pain, is a common health issue for many adults, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal. There’s a reason something that’s frustrating is often called “a pain in the neck.” Even short-term pain can have a significant, negative impact on your life.  Today, we want to look at what’s causing your acute neck pain, so you can take the steps to reduce your discomfort and reclaim your life.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Often acute neck pain comes with symptoms more complex than just “pain.” After all, pain is a vague term and is often accompanied by additional issues. Many people suffering from neck issues experience:

  • Stiffness or pain when turning the head
  • Dull, aching pain
  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • Muscle tension in the jaw or shoulder
  • Headache
  • Tingling in the neck, shoulder, or arm

Common Causes of Acute Neck Pain

Acute pain is a temporary condition (less than three months), such as a sprain, strain, or pulled muscle. In the neck, acute pain is often related to muscle, tendon, or ligament injury, though a chiropractor in Chapel Hill can help determine if spinal issues are the problem. Common causes include:

Poor Posture

Slouching, slumping, or spending time with your head tilted forward can cause strain on your neck muscles and ligaments and damage your spine, leading to pain and tension. If you work at a desk or spend several hours a day looking down at your phone, you may find yourself rubbing the back of your neck a lot or complaining of tension headaches. You can prevent neck pain by taking frequent breaks to stretch and position your chair where you are looking straight ahead.


When you wake up with a “crick” in your neck, it’s often caused by sleeping in an uncomfortable position, and if this happens frequently, it can cause minor damage to the soft tissues in your neck.  Avoid dozing off in a chair or other non-supportive area, and use the right pillow or support for your sleeping position.

Repetitive Motions

If you work in a job where you are turning your head in a repeated motion throughout the day, either side to side or up and down, you are straining your muscles and ligaments and causing misalignment in the spine. Similar to poor posture, this can cause tension and even small tears and inflammation which leads to pain and discomfort.


Commonly associated with car accidents, whiplash occurs when a strong force causes your head to jerk backwards or forwards, straining, overextending, or tearing tendons and muscles in the neck. This can even happen when you trip and fall or occur during a sports injury.

Pinched Nerves

A pinched nerve, also called a compressed nerve, can be caused by any of the above issues – sleeping in a bent position, repetitive movements, or inflammation, can cause a nerve to become compressed, leading to pain and tingling. Over time, this can lead to permanent damage if not treated quickly.

Acute Neck Pain Treatment

For a crick in the neck or a sore neck due to a pulled muscle, over the counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, gentle exercises, and heat or ice can ease discomfort. However, some acute neck problems can become chronic if left untreated, and it’s important to work with a professional if neck pain doesn’t go away after a few days.

Chiropractic care is highly effective neck pain treatment, and a chiropractor can not only ease symptoms, he or she can work with you to prevent continued pain.

Chapel Hill chiropractor, Dr. Cosmas Leigh, is Board Certified and highly trained in diagnosing and treating mechanical and physical problems of the spine and the nervous system itself.

Contact Leigh Brain & Spine for Neck Pain Relief in Chapel Hill

Dr. Cosmas Leigh at Leigh Brain & Spine offers natural neck pain relief using advanced chiropractic techniques. Reach out to us today at 919-401-9933 to schedule an appointment and get the treatment and preventive techniques that will help you live pain free!