What are the symptoms of neck problems?

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Pain and stiffness

Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of neck problems. You may feel pain in the middle or on either side of you neck, but it may also stretch to your shoulder and shoulder blade or to your upper chest. 

If you have tension headaches, the pain often travels to the back of your head, and sometimes behind your eye or even into your ear.

It may be painful to move and your muscles may feel tight, especially if you've been sitting in one position for a long time. You may notice your neck doesn't twist as far as it normally does.

If your neck stiffness came on quickly and both shoulders are also stiff, this can be a sign of a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). You should see your doctor as soon as possible as this condition needs to be treated promptly.

Numbness or tingling

If you have numbness and tingling down your arm to the fingers, this can be caused by a nerve root being pinched.

Other symptoms

  • Clicking and grating noises (called crepitus) can be caused by roughened bony surfaces moving against each other or by ligaments rubbing against bone as you move your head.
  • If you feel dizzy when looking up or turning your head, this may be caused by the vertebral arteries being pinched as a result of changes in the bones of the spine. This can sometimes cause blackouts if the blood flow is reduced, though blackouts can have other causes so it's best to see your doctor to get this checked.
  • Sometimes if you have neck pain you may also have muscle spasms that turn your head to one side. This is called torticollis, cervical dystonia or acute wry neck. This isn't very common but is unpleasant. The problem usually only lasts a few hours or days, but rarely may continue for several weeks.

If your neck pain lasts very long, and especially if your sleep is disturbed, then you may feel extremely tired or low. You should speak to your doctor if neck pain is getting you down.

  • excessive tiredness and irritability, especially if your neck pain is disturbing your sleep
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