There are various possible causes of pain on the right side of the neck, including joint degradation, injury, and stress. Treatment depends on the cause but can include pain relievers, physical therapy, and surgery in severe cases.

The neck is a vital part of the human body, comprising spinal bones, muscles, and other tissue. Damage to vertebrae, muscles, joint tissue, or nerves in the neck can all produce pain.

It is also common for a person to experience pain in connected areas, such as the shoulders, back, jaw, and head.

In this article, we discuss nine common causes of pain in the right side of the neck, treatment options, and when to contact a doctor.

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Some of the most common causes of pain in the right side of the neck include the following:

1. Spinal disc degeneration

Vertebrae in the neck and the soft discs between them wear down naturally with age. This is known as degenerative disc disease. Disc degeneration can eventually lead to arthritis of the neck.

As these soft discs deteriorate, the vertebrae may rub against each other, leading to pain, weakness, and numbness in the neck, back, and extremities.

Deterioration of the spine can lead to instability and subsequent bone spur growth. These bone spurs do not always cause physical symptoms, but the growth can compress spinal nerves, muscle tissue, and vertebrae, causing pain.

2. Muscle damage from poor posture or sleep position

Poor posture and poor spinal sleep alignment can damage the bones, muscles, nerves, and joints in the neck. These can all cause pain in the neck.

Learn more about the best sleeping positions for neck pain here.

3. Impact injury

Impact injury to the neck can damage the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and vertebrae in the neck. Pneck trauma can cause pain, stiffness, headaches, and dizziness. Nerve damage due to impact injuries may also cause pain in other body parts.

4. Whiplash or a sudden jolt to the neck

Whiplash describes an injury to the neck where the head jolts forward and then back into place very quickly. This can cause pain, muscle spasms, and headaches.

The movement resembles the crack of a whip. People tend to think of whiplash about car accidents, but it can also occur due to sporting activities and other sudden movements.

5. Nerve compression (cervical radiculopathy)

Cervical radiculopathy, which people often refer to as a pinched nerve, occurs when irritation of the nerves originating in the spinal cord in the neck causes pain to radiate down the arm.

Although this can result in pain in the neck, the primary symptoms include:

  • numbness in the arms
  • pins and needles in the arms
  • pain or weakness in part of the arms

The two most common causes of cervical radiculopathy are cervical spondylosis, or neck arthritis, and a prolapsed disc.

6. Sudden-onset or acute torticollis

Torticollis is a medical condition in which the head becomes twisted to one side. Torticollis has many causes.

Many cases are due to minor ligament or muscle sprains in the neck, although exposure to cold temperatures for an extended period could also be a cause.

Occasionally, torticollis may be a symptom of a more severe health issue. Some potential underlying causes of torticollis include tumors, infections, and side effects from taking medications.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the joints. This can cause joint pain, as well as worsening joint degradation.

Rheumatoid arthritis in the neck is rare and most commonly occurs during latter stages of the condition

8. Cancer

Cancers of the head and neck are rare and typically begin in the:

  • throat
  • larynx
  • oral cavity
  • nasal caivit4es
  • salivary glands

The growth of tumors in and around the neck can impact the bones, muscles, and nerves, causing pain, numbness, and swelling.

Learn more about head and neck cancer here.

9. Infection

Viral and bacterial infections, such as colds, the flu, and tonsilitis, can cause inflammation and pain in the throat and surrounding tissues.

More severe infections, such as cellulitis and abscesses in the neck and facial cavities, can also cause potentially serious complications.

The treatment for neck pain will depend on its cause. Mild cases may resolve independently or with home treatments, while severe or chronic pain may require medical intervention.

Home treatments

When neck pain is mild or moderate, it is usually possible to treat the symptoms at home. Some cases of neck pain will clear up quickly over a day, while others may require a few weeks to resolve fully.

A person may wish to use home remedies before seeking medical help. People can try the following methods to ease their pain:

Medical treatments

However, home remedies may not always alleviate the pain. Some people will require medical treatment to achieve relief from their neck pain. The exact treatment will depend on whether or not any underlying conditions are causing the pain.

A doctor may try the following additional treatments:

  • muscle relaxants
  • injecting medications directly into the neck
  • physical or occupational therapy
  • surgery

It is generally unnecessary to see a doctor for mild or moderate pain or discomfort. Taking OTC medications and moving gently throughout the day should help to minimize the pain.

If the pain is severe or persistent or there are additional symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical advice.

A doctor can help to determine whether or not there are more severe injuries or other conditions that require treatment. They can also prescribe stronger treatments to ease the pain.

Pain on the right side of the neck is rarely a cause for concern. Most causes of this pain are benign and treatable with home remedies.

If symptoms persist or are severe, a person should seek medical attention immediately. Most cases of neck pain should resolve within 1–2 weeks.

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