There are different types of neck pain that can affect your muscles, nerves, or other nearby tissues. Each has different causes and different treatments that might be effective.

Neck pain may result from an injury to muscles or nerves. But it may also come from parts of your body near your neck.

Read on to learn about the different types of neck pain, how each type is treated, and when you should seek medical attention for diagnosis or further treatment.

Here are the different types of neck pain.

Nerve neck pain

Nerve neck pain is also called cervical radiculopathy.

It’s caused when a bulging or slipped disc presses on a nerve. This can happen after an injury or as you age and your joint tissue weakens.

You’ll usually notice pain or tingling in your arm on the side same as your neck pain.

Muscle and ligament injury neck pain

Neck pain from a muscle or ligament injury is most commonly caused by whiplash.

Whiplash happens when your neck is suddenly moved back and forth. This can injure the muscles and ligaments due to the extreme motion involved. Whiplash injuries are common during car or sports collisions.

Common symptoms of whiplash include:

Muscle spasm neck pain

A muscle spasm in your neck happens when one or more muscles tighten without you flexing or contracting them, often from strain or pressure on your neck, as well as stress or dehydration.

Pain from a muscle spasm is usually sudden and intense. It can get worse or become irritated when you move your neck.

Facet joint neck pain

Facet joint neck pain happens when your cervical facet joints — joints between your vertebrae filled with cartilage and fluid — become injured or irritated. This type of pain often results from spinal degeneration.

With facet joint neck pain, you’ll usually feel a dull, aching pain that gets worse when you move your head or neck and put strain on the joint.

Referred neck pain

Referred neck pain is pain in the neck that’s caused by something elsewhere in your body. Some common sources of referred neck pain include:

Bone neck pain

Bone neck pain happens when a bone in your neck is affected. This can be caused by conditions like arthritis, spinal narrowing (stenosis), or injury.

Bone pain feels very deep and achy, and it often gets noticeably worse at night. Additionally, cervical stenosis pain can also cause numbness or tingling sensations.

Here are the different types of treatment for neck pain.

Home remedies

Home remedies that might help with muscle neck pain include:

  • using heating pads
  • taking a warm shower
  • stretching or doing light exercises, such as yoga

Home remedies that might help with nerve or bone neck pain include:

  • resting your neck
  • changing your sitting or sleeping position


Over-the-counter or prescription medications that relieve most types of neck pain include:

Medical treatments

Medical treatments for severe or chronic neck pain can include:

  • physical therapy, such as traction therapy for muscle and nerve pain, which is prescribed by a doctor and performed by a physical therapist
  • wearing a soft cervical collar, usually for short periods of time
  • antibiotics for pain caused by infections
  • hospitalization for severe conditions
  • surgery to treat injured tissue, repair degenerated discs, or remove tumors or cancerous tissue

Learn more about treating neck pain.

It’s recommended to get medical attention if you have:

A doctor will likely perform a physical exam to examine your symptoms and range of motion. If needed, they may order:

Here are some frequently asked questions about neck pain.

What are the 4 classifications of neck pain?

According to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), the four classifications of neck pain are:

  • neck pain that keeps you from moving your full range of motion
  • neck pain that radiates outward from the source (radicular)
  • neck pain that keeps you from properly coordinating your movements (whiplash-associated disorders, or WAD)
  • neck pain that comes along with a headache (cervicogenic)

What is the most common type of neck pain?

The most common type of neck pain is axial pain. This type of pain happens when only one part of your neck is affected, and the pain doesn’t spread beyond the source.

Several types of neck pain are considered axial pain, including facet neck joint pain and neck pain that results from bone fractures.

How do I know if my neck pain is muscular or nerve-related?

Muscle pain in your neck often makes your neck feel tight and stiff when you move it.

Nerve pain in your neck often causes sharp sensations, tingling, or numbness in your neck or upper limbs when you move your neck.

How do I know if my neck pain is from stress?

Neck pain caused by stress usually also affects the areas around the neck, such as your head, shoulders, and upper back. Neck pain from stress also tends to go away when you relax, or the source of your stress is removed.

Can neck pain be a sign of something serious?

Neck pain that goes away on its own or with home treatment is usually not a sign of something serious.

But neck pain that doesn’t go away with home treatment or medical interventions might be due to a more serious underlying condition.

There are numerous different causes of neck pain. You can try treating your neck pain at home, but getting medical help is recommended if it doesn’t go away.