Types of Neck Pain

Sufferers of neck pain generally suffer from three distinct conditions; acute neck pain, chronic neck pain, and radicular neck pain. Individuals may develop the discomfort suddenly due to trauma, injury, having slept awkwardly, or specific medical conditions such as spinal meningitis, or a slipped or herniated disc in neck. When considering all the various types of neck pain, others may have suffered for weeks, months, even years, with chronic neck pain. Chronic neck pain may consist of a dull ache that comes and goes, a sharp severe pain that occurs intermittently or constantly, or in some cases can simply be a pain that occurs only on specific movements and is alleviated by rest. Radicular neck pain occurs due to damage or irritation of the nerve roots as they exit the cervical spine; it differs from referred pain, as explained below. Whatever the cause of this type of neck pain, it can be debilitating, immobilizing, and can affect concentration, energy levels, and mood. Ascertaining the neck pain’s aetiology is half the battle in terms of alleviating or ameliorating the symptoms.


Acute Neck Pain

Another of the common types of neck pain, acute neck pain, most often occurs as a result of trauma, extreme tension, or from injuries like whiplash, contact sports injury, or assault. The pain may be a momentary twinge, or longer-lasting as the body heals itself. Acute neck pain may be exacerbated by awkward sleeping positions or heavy lifting. Tension in the neck muscles can also cause acute neck pain due to muscle fatigue, and pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the neck. Disc herniation also causes acute neck pain, possibly developing from previous chronic neck pain into sharp pain upon herniation of a previously bulging disc.

Chronic Neck Pain

Chronic neck pain can occur in certain conditions, such as:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Cervical arthritis

The varying types of neck pain may be related to muscular tension or pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the neck. Chronic neck pain may also lead to headache, referred pain, loss of mobility, stiffness of the neck, and problems with concentration, mood, and energy levels. Sufferers of chronic pain are also commonly anxious, and concerned about finding the exact source of their pain which may be an old injury, a degenerative spine problem, or a muscular condition.

Radicular Neck Pain

Radicular pain is not the same as referred pain as it is concerned with the nerve roots alone. Referred pain is simply a general term for pain that is felt in one area but is due to an irritation of a nerve in a different area. Radicular pain (radiculopathy) is a specific condition of the nerve root itself, at the point where the nerve exits the spine rather than simply anywhere along the nerve. Pain from damaged, compressed, or inflamed nerve roots is transmitted through the body via dermatomes (pathways) which can be tested by a physician to ascertain the site of compression. The types of neck pain such as radicular pain describes tingling, weakness, numbness, and pain similar to that felt in conditions such as sciatica.

Whether its chronic neck pain or acute neck pain, each has a different type of treatment depending on the individual situation.

Next Read about: Neck Pain Treatment.