What to do with radiating neck pain?

Fact Checked

Radiating neck pain might be due to trapped nerves. The exact cause why the nerves are trapped in the neck region might be disc damage, tight muscles or the formation of bony deposits.


  • Deep neck pain that spreads into the shoulder, arms or fingers
  • Pain or discomfort when the neck is moved
  • Diminished range of neck movement
  • Pain that radiates up the neck into the head
    Radiating neck pain
    Deep neck pain that spreads into the shoulder, arms or fingers.
  • Neck pain that causes headaches or dizziness

What are the usual causes of radiating neck pain?

If neck pain causes radiating symptoms into the shoulder, arm or hand, it might be triggered by various causes but it is usually due to nerve compression.

The nerve might be compressed at the nerve root due to a slipped disc. The formation of bony growths or osteophytes in the vertebrae might also crush the emerging nerve. This is common among older individuals or those who had previous neck injuries.

Muscle tightness in the upper shoulder or neck can also lead to the compression of any of the nerves that travel from the neck up to the arm. The muscles that are usually affected include the trapezius, levator scapulae and scalene.


Initial care

  • The individual should take time to rest
  • A neck collar should be worn to allow the affected muscles to recuperate
  • A sports injury professional must be consulted so that proper rehabilitation with strengthening and mobility exercises can be started

Medical care

When a doctor or sports injury professional is consulted, the exact cause of the pain is determined.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications might be prescribed.
  • Sports massage techniques can be performed to help relax the muscles.
  • Traction might be applied

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on radiating neck pain is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage neck issues, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa and Halifax.

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