ABC 7 Features VSI Groundbreaking Research to Improve Patient Safety.

Causes of Neck Pain 

Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments

Injury or chronic pain in the neck or arms can limit an active lifestyle. Depending on your level of pain, you may even have trouble driving a car, typing on a keyboard, or completing other normal activities of daily living. 

These aches can be brought on by several factors, both external and internal. It’s important to listen to the cues your body provides about where the pain lies, its severity, how long it lasts, and how frequently it recurs. 

If the problem does not require immediate medical attention, monitor your symptoms so you can share with a neck specialist how frequently it recurs. Keep track and monitor your symptoms so you can describe them in detail during your evaluation with your Virginia Spine Institute neck doctor.

It is important to note that neck pain can be either localized to the cervical spine or it may radiate down your arm, referred to as “radiculopathy.” Read on to learn about all of the symptoms and conditions associated with cervical spine conditions. And if you are currently experiencing neck pain symptoms, schedule an appointment with Virginia Spine Institute in Reston, Virginia, today.

Common Spine Conditions That May Be Causing Your Neck Pain

Annular Disc Tear

Most annular disc tears are caused by the natural aging process. Since the neck and back are responsible for bearing most of a person’s body weight, they are susceptible to a great deal of wear over time. 

Predominant symptoms of an annular tear in the neck include pain and muscle spasms in the neck. After an annular disc tear, inflammation and fluid build-up can put pressure on the nerves, causing radiating pain in the upper extremities.  

Our neck specialists at Virginia Spine Institute can quickly make a diagnosis and suggest the appropriate treatment. 



Many people with arthritic changes describe stiffness or localized aching at the affected area. Those who develop arthritis in the cervical spine (neck) may have difficulty turning or bending their neck. In severe cases, arthritic changes may place pressure on a nerve root, pinching that nerve and causing neck pain, sensation changes, or weakness in the limbs. 

With arthritis in the neck, conservative treatment is typically first-line care. Many modalities may promote optimal spine health, improve mobility and strength, and reduce pain. The neck specialists at Virginia Spine Institute will create a treatment plan that best fits your needs.


Bone Spurs

Bone spurs in the neck are simply an indication of increased forces on the joints of the spine. In response to this over time, the body remodels bone. In many cases, bone spurs and other degenerative changes may be considered a normal process of aging. Though bone spurs are a common cause of neck pain, the presence of bone spurs alone does not necessarily mean that they are the actual cause of pain. The diagnosis of bone spurs can be easily made by our neck pain doctors with X-rays.


Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease in the neck is a condition that involves the weakening of one or more vertebral discs, which normally act as a cushion between the vertebrae. The condition can develop as a natural part of the aging process but may also result from an injury.

When the disc degenerates, it begins to lose many of the properties that make it a good shock absorber. The process can cause considerable neck pain and spasms.


Disc Herniation

A herniated disc in the neck may occur when too much force is exerted on an otherwise healthy intervertebral disc. Heavy forces on the neck are sometimes too much for a healthy disc to absorb. A disc herniation, by definition, is the displacement of disc material beyond the normal confines of the disc space. Disc herniation is often referred to as disc protrusion, disc bulge, disc herniation, ruptured disc or slipped disc.

Treatment of a herniated disc depends on the severity of the neck pain symptoms and any nerve damage. Most disc herniations improve in six weeks to three months from the initial injury.


Facet Syndrome

Cervical facet joint pain can be felt in the areas of the base of the skull, upper back and shoulders, mid-back, or neck. Some people may present with frequent headaches or even ringing in the ears. 

Facet Syndrome has several potential causes, such as a whiplash injury or abnormal posture, which overloads spinal tissues causing inflammation and neck pain symptoms. 

Our neck pain doctors usually recommend conservative treatments, such as postural correction, soft tissue massage and manipulation of affected areas, and possibly injections.



Myelopathy describes any neurologic symptoms related to the spinal cord. It is a serious condition because it can cause permanent spinal cord injury. It occurs from pressure on the spinal cord due to spinal stenosis, disc herniation, or bone spurs. Myelopathy is a very serious condition that, if untreated, can lead to significant and permanent nerve damage, including paralysis and death.

If you are experiencing symptoms of myelopathy call our neck specialists at Virginia Spine Institute for diagnosis and treatment immediately.


Myofascial Pain / Muscle Spasms

Myofascial pain syndrome in the neck is thought to be a form of muscle pain resulting from a single trauma to a muscle or repetitive minor trauma over time. These painful trigger points in your neck develop in susceptible muscle tissues that are overworked for long periods. Stress, poor sleep, and physical deconditioning have a significant effect on worsening symptoms. 

If you are experiencing muscle spasms in the neck interfering with your daily life, make an appointment with our neck pain doctors. With spine-specialized physical therapy, symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome typically resolve.


Spinal Fractures

Stenosis refers to narrowing the spinal canal in the neck to a degree where the spinal cord or nerve roots may be compromised. Neck pain symptoms depend on whether narrowing affects the spinal nerve roots, the spinal cord, or both. If only spinal nerve roots are involved, the patient will experience radiculopathy with symptoms radiating into their arms and hands. 

Cervical spinal stenosis tends to progress with ongoing degenerative changes. That is why it is essential to visit a neck pain doctor as soon as possible if you suspect spinal stenosis as the cause of neck pain. 


Spinal Stenosis

Stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck to a degree where the spinal cord or nerve roots may be compromised. Neck pain symptoms depend on whether narrowing affects the spinal nerve roots, the spinal cord, or both. If only spinal nerve roots are involved, the patient will experience radiculopathy with symptoms radiating into their arms and hands. 

Cervical spinal stenosis tends to progress with ongoing degenerative changes. That is why it is essential to visit a neck pain doctor as soon as possible if you suspect spinal stenosis as the cause of neck pain. 



Spondylosis in the neck is a general term for degenerative arthritic changes of the cervical spine, or more simply, arthritis. While risks increase with age, these changes can happen at any age. 

People at increased risk of spondylosis participate in high-impact sports, heavy labor jobs, a history of previous neck injury, and a history of smoking. Genetics also plays a role. 

Neck pain symptoms often include headaches, limited range of motion, crepitus (a grinding noise with movement) during certain activities or positions.



Whiplash is a common injury to the soft tissues of the neck. It often happens when the neck suddenly moves backward and then forward. The soft tissues involved in a whiplash injury include the ligaments and the muscles of the neck that support the head. 

The most common reasons for whiplash include motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and falls. People with whiplash usually experience neck pain symptoms, stiffness, and tightness radiating from the head to the shoulders and upper back. Whiplash can range from mild to severe.


When to Seek Care for Your Neck Symptoms

Some neck pain symptoms result from something as simple as sleeping in an awkward position. While temporarily uncomfortable, this type of neck pain will eventually improve. Everyone has a different threshold for pain, and neck issues can creep up on you with little warning. 

How can you tell the difference between minor symptoms and a significant ailment? At Virginia Spine Institute, this is what our neck specialists suggest: Seek immediate help if your neck and arm aches are the results of a sudden or severe injury, such as a fall or a car accident. Here are some other red flags that indicate immediate medical care is necessary:

  • Extreme neck stiffness
  • Symptoms lasting more than one week
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Incontinence

When in doubt, seek the advice of a neck pain doctor for the cause of your neck pain right away. 

Neck pain symptoms are never something to ignore, and waiting for a diagnosis and treatment can lead to complications. There are many causes of neck pain, and our medical providers at Virginia Spine Institute have the experience and expertise to take on even the most complex cases. Call our office in Reston, Virginia, today or reach out to our team online

Our Doctors That Treat Neck Conditions

Dr. Thomas Schuler I Spine Surgeon

Spine Surgeon
Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Christopher Good I Spine Surgeon

Spine Surgeon
President of Virginia Spine Institute

Dr. Colin Haines I Spine Surgeon

Spine Surgeon
Director of Research

Dr. Ehsan Jazini I Spine Surgeon

Spine Surgeon

Dr. Niteesh Bharara

Director of Regenerative Medicine
Orthopedic Specialist - Non-Surgical Sports Medicine

Dr. Thomas Nguyen I Regenerative Medicine Specialist

Interventional Pain Specialist
Aesthetic Regenerative Medicine

Hear From Our Patients

“I am looking forward to my new life as a pain free Wife!”

– Amelia B.

“I chose to make the 10 hour trip to Virginia Spine Institute because I was unable to get any positive responses locally.”

– Crystal S.

“Thank you, Dr. Jazini, and the entire staff at VSI! I’m proud to be a VSI Spinal Champion and am grateful to have found such an amazing team during my medical crisis!”

– Kaitlin S.

“I went from not being able to do virtually anything to enjoying life once again!”

– Sara M.

“You don’t realize how much pain you’re in until you don’t have any.”

– Tommy W.

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Good and the team at Virginia Spine Institute”

– Jazmin M.

“My first appointment with Dr. Haines changed my entire life!”

– Jaime M.

“I can’t believe I waited over
20 years to get treatment at
Virginia Spine Institute!”

– Salvia G.

Videos on Neck Pain

Common Causes for Neck Pain

Spine Conditions That Cause Neck Pain

Advances in Motion-Preserving Surgery for Neck Pain and Cervical Spine Conditions

Dr. Schuler Provides Hope for Those Suffering With Back or Neck Pain.

When Is Spinal Surgery Necessary For Back or Neck Pain?

When You Should See a Specialist for Back or Neck Pain

Schedule a Neck Pain Consultation