What Causes Sharp Neck Pain?

There are many different types of neck pain with sharp neck pain being one of the most common types. But when it comes to factors that cause sharp neck pain, there are plenty. If you experience any pain between the base of the skull and the shoulders, chances are good that you have some form of neck pain.

Although we often think of the neck as one monolithic entity, neck pain can be experienced in the cervical joints and bones (vertebra), the muscles and ligaments that keep the neck intact and the shock absorbing discs found in the cervical vertebra. The neck performs a variety of functions and each part of the neck serves a purpose, which means that a trauma or injury to one can cause sharp pain throughout the neck. 

Sharp Neck Pain Causes

Sharp neck pain is just as it sounds; a sharp, sometimes shooting pain in at least one section of the neck. Some neck pain sufferers confess to feeling as though knives or pinpricks are poking the neck region, causing a tingling or pinching sensation.

The most common cause of sharp neck pain is muscle spasms or strained neck muscles. These types of injuries to the neck muscles often cause joint inflammation, which requires anti-inflammatory medication as well as pain relief therapy. These muscle strains or spasms can occur from holding your head or neck in a position that puts undue strain on it, including holding your head in an abnormal way while watching television or reading. A pillow with improper support can cause also sharp neck pain.

Sharp neck pain can occur in a number of other ways that are helpful to know. If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention right away:

  • A fall from any distance
  • Whiplash
  • Injury to the back or top of the skull
  • Excessive twisting
  • Sports injuries
  • Penetrating injury
  • External pressure to the neck, like strangulation

The onset of sharp neck pain can be sudden and the pain itself can range from mild to quite severe. You may experience swelling, redness or bruising to the injured area of the neck. In some instances the top layer of skin may be tender to the touch. Neck injuries that tend to come on fast and painful are those in which a spinal disc has been torn or has ruptured and dislocations or fractures to the spine. Any injury or trauma to the spine may cause shooting or sharp neck pain.

There are some less obvious conditions that may also cause sharp neck pain as a symptom of a larger problem. Medical problems such as the flu or meningitis may cause inflammation in the neck either due to irritation from coughing or general muscle soreness that is common with these types of illnesses.

Those who suffer from arthritis may also experience pain in the neck area. Some forms of arthritis cause damage to the spinal discs in the neck, while others may pinch a nerve in the upper region of the spine. While not a common symptom, neck pain has been seen in arthritis patients.

Treating Neck Pain

It is very important that you do not attempt to treat neck pain on your own as further injury is highly likely. While it is acceptable to use an over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain reliever until you can speak with your physician, you should not attempt any exercises or hot/cold treatments without your physician’s consent.

Attempting to perform exercises can cause greater trauma to the neck. Since sharp neck pain is often a symptom of a more severe physical ailment, any attempts to treat it on your own can cause great damage. 

Filed Under: Neck Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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