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Neck Pain on Left Side

Neck Pain on Left Side

More often than not, neck pain arises due to an inflamed or strained neck muscle. While improper posture is one of the most common contributory factors for pain in the neck, there could be other causes for pain. Scroll down to know more about the causes of neck pain on left side along with treatment options for the same.
Kanika Khara
Last Updated: May 30, 2018
A common problem that affects almost everyone at some or the other point in their lives, neck pain can be caused by numerous factors. The neck or the cervical spine is made up of seven small vertebrae that starts at the upper torso and ends below the skull. The vertebrae offers support to the neck, and the cervical spine allows a range of motions, including the ability to turn the head in any direction.

Unfortunately, because of this flexibility, the neck is often at a risk of a number of injuries. Neck pain on the left side can be caused when the support system of the neck gets affected by certain adverse conditions, thus causing the muscles in the neck to tighten and cause pain. Here are some of the common causes for pain in the left side of the neck.

Neck Injuries

Neck injuries can be caused by a number of factors, including gradual strain on the neck, trauma caused by accidents, overuse, or sudden movement. The common symptoms of neck injuries include stiffness in the muscles, radiating pain that may be limited to the left side or extend all the way to the shoulders and right neck as well. Motor driving, contact sports, and falls can result in neck injuries.

Whiplash Injury

Whiplash injury is a common neck injury that is caused by the acceleration and deceleration force in a motor accident. When the vehicle is hit in the rear end, the head is thrown back or front rapidly in an unnatural and forceful motion that may cause damage to the spine. This is also termed as a hyperextension and/or hyperflexion injury. The neck injury leads to stiffness and neck pain on the left and right side along with headache, fatigue, shoulder pain, arm pain, disturbed sleep, dizziness and excessive back pain.

Treatment: Whiplash treatment is based on the symptoms of the injury. In case of excessive pain cervical collars were recommended to avoid further risk of injury. However, the excessive immobilization by these collars seems to aggravate the condition leading to pain and stiffness. To counter this, physical therapy is recommended.

Burners and Stingers Injury

Causing acute pain in the base of left side of the neck, burners and stingers injury is common in contact sports like football or wrestling. The burning and pinching sensations runs along the base of the skull, along the neck and shoulders. An impact on the left side while playing football or a collision on this side causes the compression of the brachial plexus or nerve roots. This leads to a sharp stinging sensation on the side of the neck which may last for a couple of seconds or a few minutes. In rare cases, it can last for hours or days.

Treatment: The neck pain caused by this injury is often temporary. However, if there is numbness and weakness along the neck, shoulders and arms then the person should not be allowed to move around.

Pinched Nerve

Also known as Cervical Radiculopathy, a pinched nerve in the left side of the neck is caused by an injury to the roots of the spinal nerves. Direct pressure or excessive compression on the nerves due to conditions like herniated disc, bone spurs or spinal stenosis can lead to pinched nerves. The pain in the neck can radiate along the left shoulder and left arm as well. This can be accompanied by weakness and numbness in the neck.

Treatment: To treat pinched nerves, support braces may be recommended. Anti--inflammatory medications can reduce the swelling while the strength in the muscles can be restored with physical therapy. If there is excessive damage to the nerves in the neck, then surgery may be needed.

Cervical Herniated Disc

The bones in the spinal cord are cushioned by small discs which actually act as shock absorbers for the spine. When the tough outer fibers of these discs are damaged due to reasons like lifting heavy weights or trauma to the neck, it causes the jelly like material in the inside of the disc to bulge out. This is known as herniated disc When there is a herniated disc on the left side of the neck it leads to excessive pain, tingling and numbness. The weakness may radiate to other parts including the left shoulder, arms and chest as well.

Treatment: Rest, pain medications and exercises are the best non-surgical options for cervical herniated disc. In case of severe pain the doctor might recommend corticosteroids. If the herniated disc starts affecting the spinal cords or the squeezes the nerves then surgical options like discectomy may be considered.

Degenerative Disorders

With age the neck muscles and joints undergo a lot of wear and tear which in turn causes degenerative disorders.

Cervical Osteoarthritis

Also known as cervical spondylosis, cervical osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder in the neck that causes progressive deterioration of bones, joints and cartilage due to the wear and tear of aging. The body reacts by forming new bone also known as osteophytes (bone spurs). These bone spurs narrow the spinal column opening or the exit of the spinal nerves thus impacting joint motion and causing excessive pain. The other symptoms are headaches, inability to move the neck or a grinding sensation when doing so.

Treatment: Chiropractic manipulation, anti-inflammatory drugs and cervical collars can help in easing the pain. Traction, heat and cold therapy and exercises are recommended for long term pain management.

Spinal Stenosis

When the small neural passages also known as foramen in the left side of the neck are compressed they trap the nerve roots and cause extreme pain in neck, shoulders and arms. In severe cases there is numbness and inability to function properly. Aging, arthritis, hereditary factors and trauma are some of the common causes of spinal stenosis.

Treatment: Physical therapy, massages, cold packs and heat therapy can relieve the pain in the left side of your neck. In case of severe compression of the nerves, the Lumbar Decompressive Laminectomy surgery may be done.

Other complications in the neck that is caused by aging is the degenerative disc disease (DDD) or rheumatoid arthritis in the upper neck area.

Medical Conditions


Fibromyalgia is a long term, medical disorder that is characterized by pain and tenderness in the muscles, tissues, joints and tendons. This disorder can cause chronic neck and back pain along with depression, fatigue and sleep disorders. Infections, certain emotional trauma or disturbances in the sleep patterns can trigger off this condition.

Treatment: Stress relief by light neck massages and meditation can help in coping with the symptoms. Drugs like antidepressants, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and sleeping aids can be prescribed. While physical therapy and fitness programs can restore the strength to the muscles and ease the pain, cognitive behavioral treatment may be required to deal with the emotional aspect.

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis

Also known as DISH or the Forestier's disease, the Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis is a syndrome that is associated with abnormal calcification in the ligaments and tendons along the cervical spine, thereby causing stiffness and hardening of the tissues. The disorder mainly affects the thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) spine regions that leads to swelling, loss of mobility and intense pain in the neck region.

Treatment: The treatment for DISH includes pain management, easing the stiffness and preventing the condition from worsening. To treat the neck and other pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid injections may be given. To reduce the stiffness and loss of motion, the doctor may recommend a range of exercises. DISH is associated with conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity. Keeping these in control can restrict the progression of the disease and prevent its related symptoms.

Other medical causes of neck pain in the left side include:
  • Spinal cord tumor
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Heart attacks
  • Carotidynia
  • Meningitis
  • Swelling in lymph nodes
  • Infections in epiglottis, between bones of the spine and abscess in the tissues of the throat
Other Causes

Muscle Tension

Caused by stress, sleeping in an incorrect position, poor posture, overuse or sitting for a long time in the same posture, muscle strains can leave you with pain in the neck along with stiffness and numbness.

Treatment: Improving your posture, sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow, non-prescription painkillers, muscle relaxant medications, heat therapy and gentle massaging of the neck can ease the tension. Stress plays an important role in muscle tension, and easing the stress and emotional pressure can provide relief from muscle tension.

In addition to these causes, pain in the upper back and shoulder can radiate to the neck and shoulders. This is known as referred pain and it can affect the neck as well. Treating the root cause of the problem can ease the pain in the other parts as well. When there is severe and continuous neck pain it is advisable to seek orthopedic care. Medical care should be provided in cases the pain in the neck radiates down the arms or legs or is accompanied by weakness, headaches and tingling in other parts of the body.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.