Neck injuries

Neck problems are normally caused by:

  • poor posture
  • an accident or in many cases
  • can start for no obvious reason

Neck problems are rarely due to any serious disease or damage. 

You'll not normally need an X-ray or an MRI scan.

Most neck problems settle within 6 weeks

Keeping active

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • prevent weight gain

More about keeping active

Resting or moving?

After a neck injury you should:

  • keep moving, even if you move slowly at first
  • do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work - this is important and the best way to get better
  • try to move your neck, slowly and gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake
  • change positions regularly where ever you are - try to find a position that reduces any pains you may have in your neck and/or arm(s)
  • try to stay active but remember not to carry out activities which aggravate any pains you may have in your neck and/or arm(s) - exercise really helps your neck problem and can relieve your pain
  • check your pillow is not too firm or your mattress too soft - this can make your neck problem worse

Wearing a collar will slow down your recovery and should never be worn when driving.

What about sports?

You should take your time before taking part in any sports after a neck problem.

If you take part in sports too soon you could be injured again. You should only take part in sports when you can move freely. Be prepared, however, for slight discomfort at first.

Remember to stretch and warm up fully before sports.

Can my neck problem cause trouble anywhere else?

Your neck problem can sometimes cause hot, burning, shooting, or stabbing in your shoulders or into one or both of your arms. This can be due to nerve pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, you may be able to take other more appropriate medication. Speak to your doctor about this if you have these pains for more than a week.

Your neck problem can also cause headaches or dizziness. You should discuss these with your doctor if they haven't improved within 6 weeks.

Do I need to see my doctor?

You don't normally need to see your doctor if you follow the right advice and take the right medication.

Your neck problem should improve over the next 6 weeks.

If you experience any of the following, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Neck problems that start when you're ill with other conditions - such as rheumatoid arthritis or cancer
  • Pain that worsens
  • Numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in one or both arms that has not improved after a week
  • Problems with your balance or walking
  • Blurred vision, ringing in your ears, or dizziness that doesn't go away within 6 weeks.
  • You're feeling generally unwell and have lost weight or have a fever
  • Your neck problem has not improved within 6 weeks

Find your nearest GP Practice

Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline

If you have a neck problem, the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) can provide information and advice to help with your problem, and refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.
How to contact