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Cervicalgia: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)


What is cervicalgia?

Cervicalgia is a pain in the neck which does not radiate outwards (or down the arms). Cervicalgia is slightly different to a neck strain, which is usually more short-lived.

How common is cervicalgia?

Cervicalgia is extremely common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of cervicalgia?

The common symptoms of cervicalgia are:

  • An occasional sharp pain in the neck, usually on movement.
  • More constant aching in the neck.
  • Pain is frequent when rotating the head/neck.
  • A feeling of tightness around the neck and upper back.
  • It may be tender to palpate (feel).
  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Headaches

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes cervicalgia?

  • Injury: The most obvious cause of cervicalgia is injury. If you’ve been in a situation in which you might have been injured, such as in a car accident, it is imperative that you see a doctor immediately. An examination can rule out other, more serious conditions than cervicalgia.
  • Whiplash or neck strain: Microscopic tears in your neck muscles, from sports injuries or accidents, can cause muscles to tighten and swell. These tears often heal on their own, but they can get worse if you don’t let them rest. Most tears occur in the trapezius muscle (covering the back of your neck, shoulders and thorax) or the levator scapulae muscle (covering the back and side of your neck).
  • Stress: Stress is a very common cause of neck pain. Many people hold their stress in the neck and shoulders, unconsciously clenching those muscles whenever they find themselves in a stressful situation. Over time, this leads to exhausted, overworked muscles.
  • Workplace ergonomics: How and how long you sit at in a chair at your desk can also cause cervicalgia. Without an ergonomically proper setup, you easily can develop neck and back pain.
  • Kyphosis: This condition, also known as cervical posture syndrome, affects such athletes as cyclists, baseball catchers, and bodybuilders. Typically, kyphosis sufferers stand with their shoulders rounded forward and their chins poking forward. Their shoulder blades poke out away from their spines. Kyphosis is caused either by a repetitive movement that promotes this posture, as in the case of cyclists and catchers, or by an uneven bodybuilding regimen that makes chest muscles stronger than back muscles, pulling the body forward.
  • Tight muscles: Tight muscles in your neck and upper back prohibit necessary blood circulation. Lack of blood “starves” your muscles of nutrients, making them weaken and tighten further. This condition can be caused by kyphosis, poor ergonomics in the workplace, scoliosis, and bad posture. Poor or incomplete stretching after training sessions also can be a factor. Once your muscles have loosened up from working out, you have to stretch them properly to cool them off or they will tighten up.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cervicalgia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cervicalgia diagnosed?

Doctors may diagnose cervicalgia using:

  • Medical history to rule out other problems
  • A physical exam

How is cervicalgia treated?

Treatment for cervicalgia varies according to the symptoms and suspected cause. If you’ve been injured, apply ice to your neck and see a doctor immediately. Initial treatment could involve prescription-strength anti-inflammatories and painkillers. You also may be advised to wear a temporary cervical collar to support your head. Wearing the collar gives your neck muscles a chance to rest and heal.

If an injury didn’t cause your neck pain, it may be due to stress. In such a case, you can take measures at home to ease your pain. First, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen, to reduce swelling. These medications also help your muscles to relax, which also reduces your pain. Applying a heating pad will help, too.

If you spend a lot of time at your desk at work or at home, you can take precautions to prevent cervicalgia. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Your feet should rest flat on the floor, with your knees bent at a right angle.

Adjust the armrests of your chair so that your elbows and forearms rest on the chair. Rest your forearms on the desktop if your keyboard is on top of the desk. If your desk is too high, you may need a footrest to sit comfortably and safely.

If you have kyphosis, massage and stretching help to relax the muscles in your upper chest and neck. Strengthening the muscles in your upper back can help re-balance your body.

The pain caused by kyphosis often seems to get worse if you stand or sit in the same position for a long time, but the pain usually goes away once you start moving around.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cervicalgia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you. Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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