Neck pain but no known injury

It is not uncommon to have neck pain without a clear reason. A minor injury may have occurred without your knowledge. Poor posture or improper movement over a period of time may cause neck or back pain. Pain may be caused by overuse or misuse of the neck muscles or by poor posture, such as:

  • Holding your head in a forward posture or odd position while working, watching TV, or reading.
  • Watching TV or reading while lying down.
  • Sleeping on a pillow that is too high, too flat, or doesn't support your head.
  • Sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted or bent.
  • Spending long periods of time resting your forehead on your upright fist or arm ("thinker's pose").
  • Stress. Tension may develop in the muscles that run from the back of the head across the back of the shoulder (trapezius muscle). These muscles may feel tight and painful.
  • Working or exercising using your upper body and arms.

Neck pain may also be caused by another serious health problem, such as arthritis, meningitis, the flu, or as a symptom of a heart attack.

Many people live with a certain amount of ongoing (chronic) pain. If chronic neck pain changes or becomes worse than usual, see your doctor.

Last Updated: August 12, 2009

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