Pain that seems to occur only on the right or left side of the neck may be caused by a lot of things, from muscle strains to a pinched nerve. Most of the time, these cases aren’t serious and will likely heal on their own or with over-the-counter pain relievers and rest. If you are experiencing severe pain that lasts for more than a week, it may be due to a much more serious condition that needs immediate attention by a doctor.
In this article, we give you some information on the causes of neck pain that occurs only on the left or right side, as well as some treatments that you can consider.
Causes of pain in the right or left side of the neck
Here are some of the main causes of left- or right-sided neck pain:
Your neck may hurt after using a computer or smartphone for an extended period of time, driving long distances or engaging in activities that restrict head movement.
These actions can cause the muscles in your neck to weaken. If your neck muscles are weak, your neck joint may become stiff and you may have difficulty moving your neck. A stiffened neck joint may contract nerves or muscles when rotating, resulting in pain.
Poor sleeping position or posture
Neck pain may also be caused by sleeping in an unusual position. You may be more likely to experience neck pain if you sleep on your stomach. Sleeping with too many pillows or on a mattress that is too soft can also cause neck pain because your head and neck are not in line with the rest of your body.
Posture is also important in preventing, reducing or eliminating neck pain. Poor posture weakens the muscles near your neck and shoulders as well as your spine, thus leading to pain.
Trauma to the neck can cause a neck sprain, leading to pain. “Whiplash” is another term used for a neck sprain. This occurs when your ligaments or muscles in the neck become injured because something impacts your body that causes your neck to overextend and snap back into place too quickly.
This type of impact can occur if you’re in a car accident. It may also occur in other instances like when riding a roller coaster or encountering a blunt force during a sports activity.
There are several degenerative conditions related to the joints, vertebrae, muscles and other parts of your neck that can cause pain. These conditions can occur from aging or from other health conditions. Some of these degenerative conditions are:
- Pinched nerves
- Inflammation in the nerves or joints
- Cervical disc degeneration
- Cervical fractures
Other causes of neck pain
Neck pain can also be associated with an accident, a high fever, pain in your arms and legs or a headache.
The cause of these symptoms should be diagnosed by a doctor immediately.
Seeing a doctor
Pain on the left side of your neck that lasts for more than a week and doesn’t respond to treatment should be evaluated by a doctor.
If you start to feel pain running down your arms or legs, or you feel a numbness or tingling sensation in your neck, see a doctor as soon as you can. Neck pain accompanied by a headache should also be evaluated promptly.
If neck pain is the result of an obvious incident, such as a car accident, fall or sports injury, seek medical attention immediately.
Treating one-sided neck pain
The right treatment for your neck pain depends on your condition, its severity and your overall health.
For minor neck pain, try a heating pad or a hot shower for 20 minutes or so at a time for the first two to three days. Then use ice packs for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day.
Here are a few other simple remedies and lifestyle tips to try to help with your neck pain:
- Practice gentle, slow stretching
- Try a massage
- Sleep with a special neck pillow
- Take anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- Use good posture when standing, sitting, and walking
- Adjust your chair so that your eyes are looking straight at your computer screen
- Sleep with your head and neck aligned with the rest of your body
- Avoid carrying heavy suitcases or other items that pull too much on one shoulder
Your doctor may recommend for you to undergo physical therapy to help relieve your pain. A therapist will assist you with special exercises, posture changes and other adjustments you can make to help you feel better and prevent future problems.
Depending on the source of the pain, your doctor may inject corticosteroid medications into the nerve roots, muscles or in between the bones of the vertebrae on the left side of your neck to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
Neck surgery usually is considered a treatment for neck pain only when all other approaches have failed. Most doctors would rather a patient first try treating their neck pain using medicine, rest and physical therapy.
If your spinal cord or nerve roots are being compressed, or if there’s a fracture to be repaired, surgery may be necessary. These surgeries involve a hospital stay of up to a week, and you will often have to wear a neck brace or other protective equipment to support the neck and keep it still during healing. Complete recovery takes about five weeks. You’ll need to exercise care and avoid heavy lifting or exertion for several months afterward.
Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck!