Neck pain when turning the head

neck pain when turning your head

The neck is, first of all, the most mobile part of the spine, responsible for the movements and turns of the head. But if we compare the structure of the cervical vertebrae and, for example, lumbar or thoracic, it can be noted that the former have a much thinner body. But it is in this department that the entire burden of maintaining the head and its movements falls. Due to such natural "injustice", it is the cervical region that often suffers from illness and injury, which leads to a person's neck hurting when turning his head.

Neck pain has now become one of the most common problems. They occur in people regardless of their age, occupation or physical condition. Increasingly, patients turn to doctors with such complaints: "I can't turn my head", "My neck hurts a lot", "I have neck cramps". There are many reasons for such symptoms, it is important to diagnose correctly. Otherwise, it will be impossible to quickly get rid of the pain.

Characteristics of the pain

This condition, when it hurts to turn your head, is familiar to many. This happens due to pathologies of the muscles, ligaments or spine in the cervical collar area. In addition, the pain appears not only in the neck, but also in the shoulders, even in the hands, it gives to the back of the head. Other symptoms may appear: numbness, tingling, weakness, darkening of the eyes. In this case, the head cannot be turned to the side, the person has to turn with the whole body.

In most cases, neck stiffness and pain last from a couple of days to a week. They can vary in character: shoot, break, burn, surround, stab. Sometimes the pain is different and in intensity: from weak, aching, to sharp, very strong. If it is not associated with any pathology, but it appeared due to overwork or stress, it will pass even without serious treatment, only reducing the load and anesthetic ointments.

A visit to the doctor is necessary if the neck does not stop hurting in a week, and also when other symptoms appear. This may include numbness, pins and needles or a tingling sensation, headaches, nausea, weakness, or fever. It is important to seek medical attention also if the neck suddenly hurts for no apparent reason and the stiffness increases rapidly.


Neck pain can be caused by a variety of factors. In most cases, they are associated with muscle tension or their increased tone. This happens after physical exertion, for example, when playing sports. When a person frequently tilts or turns his head, lifts weights or makes large-amplitude movements with his hands, lactic acid forms in the muscles and microtrauma to the fibers occurs. The damage can be localized in the neck or neck area. This leads to pain that gets worse every time you turn your head.

Athletes are not the only ones who suffer from this problem. It often reduces the neck of loaders, builders, workers, seamstresses, drivers, that is, those whose professional activities are associated with constant overstrain of the hands and neck area.

Static loads are no less dangerous for the neck. Often, upon waking up, a person notices that he has rested his neck. This happens due to an uncomfortable position during sleep or due to a poor selection of bedding. For example, sleeping on a feather mattress that is too soft, a large or hard pillow, a sunken sofa can cause pain in the neck area. A similar situation develops when a person spends a long time in an uncomfortable position, for example, sitting with his head bowed in front of a computer or talking on the phone, pressing his shoulder to his ear.

In addition to muscle strain, injuries are often the cause of the pain. In most people, the neck muscles are quite weak, and the cervical spine is more fragile in structure than others. Due to this, any sudden movement, a blow to the neck or even a fall of a person can cause injuries in this area.

They suffer injuries mainly of muscles and ligaments. Very often, the muscle that runs along the back of the neck and is responsible for the movement of the scapula is subjected to sprains. A common occurrence is also a mixture of vertebrae or a fracture. The consequences of all injuries are intense pain that makes any movement of the head impossible.

Muscular pathologies that cause neck stiffness and pain when turning or bending over also include myositis. This is an inflammation of the muscles that occurs due to hypothermia, an infectious disease, injury or overexertion. Inflammation is accompanied by edema, as a result of which the mobility of the head is severely limited. The cause of this condition can even be severe stress, which causes muscle spasms and limits any movement of the head.

What diseases appear

There are more serious reasons for this problem. If the pain does not go away after a few days, any movement causes pain, numbness or tingling in the fingers, headaches, it is very important to see a doctor. After all, most likely, such pains are a symptom of a pathology that requires special treatment.

doctor visit for neck pain

With severe pain that limits the mobility of the neck, it is better to seek the advice of a specialist.

Most often they occur in diseases of the cervical spine. Each person has different symptoms, but pain is almost always present when turning the head. They are some of the most common pathologies.

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is now becoming more common. This is due to a sedentary lifestyle, malnutrition, increased stress on the neck muscles when sitting in front of the computer. Usually, with osteochondrosis, the neck hurts on the right or left side, since the cause is infringement of the nerve roots.

A herniated disc or disc bulge in the cervical region is common. After all, the muscles that keep the vertebrae in the correct position are weak here, and the load on the neck is always great. Therefore, the discs suffer, which, due to improper nutrition, become very brittle. As a result of this, the vertebrae converge and infringe the nerve roots. This, as well as muscle spasms, cause pain when turning the head.

Osteoarthritis of the intervertebral joints is less frequent. Older people are mostly susceptible to it, since it is a degenerative-dystrophic process. Arthrosis is often accompanied by a narrowing of the spinal canal and the appearance of bone growths near the vertebrae. Because of this, some patients cannot move their heads at all.

Scoliosis and slouching are not considered serious conditions by many, but they can also cause pain and stiffness. Due to the incorrect position of the spine, the increased load falls on one side of the neck. As a result, the pain appears only on the right or left side.

The cause of this condition can also be other diseases: vascular disorders, neurological pathologies or infections. Of these, meningitis is the most dangerous. This is a rather rare, but dangerous disease. In addition to a stiff neck, with meningitis, a person has a headache, nausea, weakness, and the temperature may rise. One such disease is meningococcal disease.

Pain and stiffness in the neck zone of the neck can be a symptom of scalene muscle syndrome, cervical sciatica, humeroscapular periarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, insufficiency of the vertebral artery, neuralgia of the occipital nerve. Although the manifestations of these diseases may be similar, their treatment must be different, so it is very important to diagnose them correctly.

pain in children

This condition, when it is impossible to move the head, occurs even in children. Some babies are born with a pathology such as torticollis. In this case, the child's head takes a forced position, tilted to the side. This is due to a spasm of the neck muscles.

Pain when turning the head can also occur in older children. This is most often caused by infectious diseases. It can be lymphadenitis, mumps, purulent tonsillitis, meningitis. It is very important to recognize the disease in time and start treatment.


In many cases, when overwork, hypothermia, or stress become the cause of such an unhealthy condition, you can ease the pain yourself. The main thing at the same time is not to limit yourself to taking painkillers. An integrated approach is needed: it is necessary to limit the mobility of the head with the help of braces, massage, special gymnastics, rubbing ointments or applying compresses are useful.

But if such pains are a symptom of some disease, then only a doctor can determine how to treat them correctly. After all, it is very important that not only symptomatic therapy be carried out, but also the treatment of the underlying pathology.

Several therapeutic measures depend on the cause of the pain, but there are some that apply in any case:

  • Drugs to relieve pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, to improve blood circulation and metabolic processes.
  • Rest for several days, sometimes immobilization of the neck with a Shants collar or a more rigid orthosis is indicated, which will help accelerate the healing of damaged tissues.
  • Hot or cold compresses.
  • Massage, rubbing ointments.
  • Physiotherapy.
manual therapy for neck pain

The treatment of this pathology must be complex, necessarily including massage or manual therapy.

medical therapy

Many people, when they do not know what to do to get rid of the pain when turning their head, start taking painkillers. Sometimes this helps if the condition is not associated with serious illness. But it is worth remembering that pain relievers or NSAIDs should not be taken without consulting a doctor for more than 3-5 days. Therefore, if the pain does not go away during this time, it is better to consult a specialist.

Also, in many cases, pain relief alone will not help restore neck mobility, since it is still necessary to relieve muscle spasms, normalize blood circulation and relieve inflammation.

Therefore, in such cases, a complex of drugs is usually prescribed:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Muscle relaxants to relieve muscle spasms.
  • Chondroprotectors help restore cartilage tissue, improve mobility of the spine.
  • Various ointments relieve pain, inflammation, warm and relax.
  • Multivitamins make up for the lack of vitamins.

physiotherapy treatment

In addition to drugs, the treatment of neck pain necessarily includes other methods. Most often, a massage is prescribed that helps relax the muscles and improves mobility of the neck. Manual therapy is effective, but in this department it must be applied very carefully. In addition, spinal traction is sometimes indicated. This method helps well with infringement of nerve fibers, osteochondrosis, intervertebral hernia.

For any pathology, physiotherapy is effective. It can be electrophoresis, UHF, laser, magnetic therapy, paraffin applications, acupuncture. Useful mud applications, therapeutic baths. These procedures normalize muscle tone, improve blood circulation and metabolic processes, and have a general strengthening effect.

And therapeutic exercises will help consolidate the treatment result and restore range of motion. Start special exercises after pain and swelling subside. They strengthen muscles, increase mobility and prevent muscle spasms. All exercises are performed slowly, without sudden movements, avoiding the appearance of pain.

Home remedies

Such a pathology is treated at home. Therefore, many patients, in addition to the methods prescribed by the doctor, use various popular recipes.

  • A bag of hot salt warms the neck with muscle spasms well.
  • Pour boiling water on a leaf of horseradish, after cooling, stick it to the neck and wrap it with a scarf. You can leave the compress on overnight if there is no intense burning sensation.
  • Similarly, a compress is made from leaves of burdock or cabbage.
  • Mix 50 g of honey and vodka, add 2 tablespoons of fine salt and a little grated horseradish. When the mass becomes homogeneous, use it to rub the neck.
  • An effective warming compress is prepared from 300 ml of alcohol, 10 ml of camphor and a vial of iodine.
  • Mix the yolk, camphor alcohol, vodka and mustard powder. Rub your neck before bed.
  • If you mix crushed ginger root, some garlic and butter, this ointment will help you get rid of cramps fast.
  • Well relaxes and calms a drink of juice of aloe and black radish, mixed with honey.

By itself, the neck will not stop hurting, its mobility will not recover. Therefore, it is better to immediately consult a doctor and start the correct treatment than to constantly suffer from the inability to turn your head.