What’s causing the pain in my neck?

Written by: Mr Fahid Rasul
Published: | Updated: 22/08/2023
Edited by: Lisa Heffernan

Neck pain is highly common among people of all ages. Bad posture, hunching over a computer all day long, and sleeping funny can all cause pain in the neck. Other times, pain in the neck may be a side effect of osteoarthritis or a symptom of an underlying health problem.


To find out more about neck pain, what causes it and what we can do to prevent it, we interviewed Mr Fahid Rasul, renowned consultant neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon.



What are the symptoms of neck pain?


The most common symptoms of neck pain are:

  • pain that gets worse when the head is in one position for a long time, such as driving or working at a computer
  • muscle stiffness
  • muscle spasms
  • limited range of movement in the neck (side-to-side or up-and-down)
  • headaches


When should I see a doctor?


Usually, neck pain improves within a couple of weeks with treatment at home. If the pain isn’t going away after a few weeks, it is recommended to visit your doctor.


You should always seek medical advice:

  • If your neck pain is a result of trauma from a fall or a car accident.
  • If your neck pain is very severe.
  • If your neck pain is persistent for over a week with no relief.
  • If your neck pain spreads down your arms or legs, or is accompanied by weakness, tingling and numbness.


What causes neck pain?


The neck bares the weight of the head, which is quite heavy, so of course it is susceptible to:

  • Injuries: Trauma from trips, falls, car accidents, or rapid movements of the neck (from headbanging at a rock concert, for example) can result in straining the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck, causing pain.
  • Wear-and-tear: Joints in the neck can wear down over time, leading to pain.
  • Muscle strains: Sitting at a computer all day or sitting with bad posture for a long period of time can strain the neck muscles and cause pain.
  • Compressed nerves: Sometimes, discs in the neck can become herniated and press down onto nerves which run from the spinal cord to the arms. This can lead to neck pain, weakness, numbness and tingling.
  • Certain diseases: Diseases like meningitis, cancer and arthritis may be the underlying cause of neck pain, although this is rare.


Preventing neck pain


As neck pain is mostly associated with poor posture and wear-and-tear, there are some lifestyle changes which can help prevent some neck pain, such as:

  • Improving your posture when standing and sitting.
  • Taking frequent breaks to get up from your work desk to move around.
  • Adjusting your desk and screen height so that your screen is at eye level.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Sleeping in a good position.


Treating neck pain


Luckily, most neck pain heals itself after a few weeks. Over-the-counter painkillers and alternating between hot and cold can help relieve pain and discomfort.


If neck pain persists, on the other hand, you may be prescribed stronger pain medication by your doctor. Physical therapy can also help with pain.


If all fails and you have neck pain that lasts over several weeks and months, steroid injections might be recommended. These involve injecting corticosteroid near the nerve roots and into the facet joints to relieve the pain. As a last resort, decompression surgery will be carried out to release the compressed nerve that’s causing the pain.



For more information regarding neck pain or to book a consultation with a specialist who can get to the root of your pain, head on over to Mr Fahid Rasul's Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Fahid Rasul

Mr Fahid Rasul is a highly accomplished and experienced consultant neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon who specialises in back pain, neck pain, sciatica, spinal stenosis, arm pain, as well as minimally invasive surgery. Currently, his private practice is based in London at The London Clinic on Harley Street, Birmingham at the Spire Parkway Hospital, and Northampton at the Three Shires Hospital

Mr Rasul is an expert in treating the full range of spinal disorders. He obtained his MBBS from University College London in 2008. He undertook his neurosurgical training in London working at multiple centers of excellence. He was awarded his FRCS in Neurosurgery in 2019 by the Royal College of Surgeons, England. Following this, he completed two prestigious complex spine fellowships where he obtained further experience in Spinal Surgery.  He has a number of additional qualifications as well, including a master of philosophy (MPhil) in Clinical Neurosciences from the University of Cambridge (2016), and an MSc in Clinical Neuroscience from University College London (2012).

Mr Rasul was the top-ranked candidate when he obtained his MPhil from the University of Cambridge, earning him funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC). He was also one of only two UK-based neurosurgeons to be awarded the highly acclaimed BASS travelling fellowship in 2020.

Mr Rasul has presented his clinical research at multiple national and international conferences. He has also published numerous articles in internationally acclaimed journals. He previously held the position of education lead during his time on the British Association of Spinal Surgeons (BASS) trainee committee. 

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Platelet-rich plasma
    Ozone therapy
    Botulinum toxin (Botox™)
    Abnormal gait
    Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
    Elbow Pain
    Nerve Compression elbow
    Median nerve compression
    Radial nerve compression
    This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.