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Pain in Left Side of Neck

Updated on December 19, 2013

The structure of the neck comprises of muscles, ligament, bones, etc. When any of these structures are adversely affected it leads to pain in neck. Pain can occur in right or left side of the neck and the pain can be of two types, i.e.acute or chronic. If the pain is acute, it persists for a short time, whereas if the pain is chronic it lasts for a long time.

Acute neck pain arises due to minor injuries in the neck while chronic pain is caused due to underlying diseases.Some of the general causes for pain in left side of neck are stiff and swollen neck, poor posture, diseases such as arthritis, etc. Rare cases of pain in left side of neck can be very serious and require immediate medical attention. Treatments include intake of drugs, correct posture, and exercises.

Symptoms of pain in left side of neck

Signs and symptoms of pain in left side of neck may vary for each individual. It can be a dull pain or it can be a sharp and stinging pain and this pain may spread to the shoulder and arm as well. Neck pain caused due to meningitis leads to difficulty in movement of chin to the chest.

Causes of the pain in left side of neck

  • Muscle Tension: Tight or tense muscles in the neck and shoulders can affect the nerves and lead to neck pain further causing severe headache.
  • Injury: Injuries like spinal injuries or pulled and torn muscles and joint problems can lead to pain in neck and shoulder.
  • Arthritis: Some of the symptoms of arthritis are bones and joints deterioration. When it occurs on the left side of the neck it leads to chronic pain in left side of the neck.
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis causes weakening of bones resulting in neck and shoulder pain.
  • Inflamed carotid artery: Inflammation of the carotid, or temporal arteritis may cause headache on one side of the head and at times a physical lump may be felt in the neck where the artery is blocked or inflamed. This results in neck pain.
  • Wrong/ incorrect posture: Wrong positioning of the neck while sitting or sleeping for a very long time can strain the neck muscles and result in pain in left/right side of neck.
  • Fibromyalgia: In fibromyalgia pain is felt not only in neck but the entire body. Still one of the common symptoms is pain in left side of neck and sometimes it is the only symptom experienced by the fibromyalgia patient.
  • Whiplash injury: A whiplash injury can occur due to traumatic events like accident which affects the movements of the cervical spine. Some of the common symptoms of whiplash injury are neck pain and loss of neck movements.
  • Cervical spondylosis: Cervical spondylosis is a disorder that occurs due to abrupt degenerative changes or wear and tear of the soft tissues, discs or vertebrae of the cervical spine. These changes result in gradual narrowing of the disc space which further leads to loss of normal square-shaped bone and formation of bone spurs. These spurs exert strain on the tissues that causes severe pain in the neck.
  • Lymph node swelling: Sore throat and swollen lymph nodes can also lead topain in left side of neck during infection.
  • Cervical strain: Inflamed neck muscles causes strain on the cervical muscle which further leads to spasm of the upper and cervical back muscles. This take place because of excessive physical and psychological stress, injuries or poor sleeping habitsfurther resulting in neck pain.
  • Nerve compression: Damage to the bone structures of the neck may put strain on the nerves of the neck causing discomfort and pain in neck.
  • Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis: This is a condition where there is abnormal calcification in the ligaments and tendons along the cervical spine,leading to stiffness and hardening of the tissues. It primarily affects the thoracic and lumbar spine areas resulting in swelling, loss of mobility, and severe pain in the neck.

Treatment for pain in left side of neck

The treatment varies depending upon the underlying cause. In case of serious injuries doctor should be consulted immediately. It should not be taken lightly else it may cause long-term neck problems, especially on the left side of the neck.Some of the treatments include:

  • In case of strained neck muscles neck massage is an effective way of soothing the neck muscles and alleviating pain. However, neck massage should be done by a professional. Hot bath, application of heat pack, acupressure and aromatherapy are also beneficial for treating neck pain.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain-relieving medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen (Aleve) may be prescribed for reducing the pain.
  • Application of an ice pack to the left side of your neck may also lessen swelling and application of heat pack may help to relax strained muscles. In some cases gentle stretching and exercise will also help to relax the muscles and keep away from further injury.
  • In case of lymph swelling, one can opt for lymphatic massage to drain the lymph nodes and lessen the neck pain. Drugs such as ibuprofen and a course of antibiotics can help to address the underlying infection.
  • Exercises can help to maintain a good posture. If pain is caused due to sitting or sleeping in a poor posture, one may prevent the pain from worsening by correcting the posture. Physical therapy can also help in treating this condition.
  • Overuse of neck muscles must be avoided. Pain and stiffness in the neck in the morning is common, this may be due to a wrong sleeping posture or use of an extremely fluffy pillow. Pillow and mattress should be comfortable and facilitate the proper alignment of the spine. Use of cervical pillow can prove beneficial to reduce the neck pain caused because of wrong sleeping posture.
  • In case of inflamed carotid artery and injuries one should consult the doctor immediately, as it is a very serious medical condition which can cause reduced or blocked flow of blood to the brain.
  • For some patients, fibromyalgia can be treated via a good sleep schedule, ice and heat packs, and exercises. In other cases, changes in diet or drug therapy can make a difference.
  • If your pain is persistent, severe, or comes back repeatedly, it’s important to consult a back specialist to make sure whether you need special medical care.

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