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New Onset of Neck Pain

I have new neck pain, what should I do?

Do not panic. There are many reasons as to why your neck can become painful and mostly these events are nothing to worry about.

Neck pain can vary from mild to very intense, as the neck can be a very sensitive area. It is rare for neck pain to be a sign of something serious (even if pain is very bad).

It can be easily managed by following some simple steps. Most new neck pain will fade in 2 to 6 weeks and can resolve in 6 to 12 weeks

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain in the neck, head, shoulder, or sometimes the arm
  • Pain may limit certain movements at the neck (like looking down), or general stiffness to all neck movements
  • Some people describe muscle tension or muscle spasms

What if I have some other symptoms, or if I had a fall?

Please read the "symptoms to check" in the red box on the right of this screen first before using this page.

What are the causes? 

Neck pain is very common. Most of us will experience some neck pain in our lives.

Neck pain can appear with no clear trigger, or some people can describe a movement or event that started the symptoms.

The neck has lots of muscles, joints and discs that might be involved in a pain event. These structures can heal and repair if they have been injured or inflamed. It is not essential to identify the structures involved, as this will not usually change the advice you are given. The spine is a strong and resilient structure.

You can reduce your risk of neck pain by living a healthy lifestyle. Access our "Healthy You" page for information on exercise, mental health, smoking and weight management. 

What can I do to help myself? 

new onset of neck pain infograph

What else can I do?

Any movement or exercise can help! You may feel more confident starting with gentler exercise types like walking, swimming and stretching. Aim to get confident with using and moving your neck again.

There are no movements that will be dangerous or cause damage to your neck. It is ok to return to sports or the gym, if you feel up to it. But you may need to modify exercises or do a bit less than usual. (Avoiding all pain isn’t necessary, but you do not need to ‘push through’ pain either, especially if it is spoiling your enjoyment of exercise!)

We have included some exercises below for you to try:

New onset of neck pain - EASY

New onset of neck pain - MODERATE

New onset of neck pain - ADVANCED

Is neck pain caused by bad posture?

posture infograph

Do I need an x-ray or a scan?

In most cases, no. Scans and x-rays are rarely useful in diagnosing neck pain. While a scan or x-ray sometimes provides information, it rarely alters the treatment plan.

Imaging findings are very poorly linked with pain. Often people with no pain have very similar findings on their scans/x-rays to those with pain, and the words used in scan reports can make us worry unnecessarily.

X-rays and scans can help for a small number of people in certain situations and will be recommended by a healthcare professional if required.

Symptoms to check

Click the plus sign to see a list of problems that could be a sign you may need to be checked urgently

When to get immediate medical advice

You should contact a GP or NHS 111 immediately if you have neck pain and:

  • numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
  • loss of bladder or bowel control or difficulty peeing
  • severe arm pain with accompanying tingling or numbness
  • chest Pain
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a swelling or a deformity in your neck
  • problems walking
  • lack of coordination or heaviness to your arms or legs
  • sudden, significant weakness to your arms and legs
  • it does not improve after resting or is worse at night
  • severe headache
  • it started after a serious accident, such as after a car accident


These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be checked urgently.

Immediate medical advice is available by contacting NHS 111

Referral information

If you are struggling with managing your neck pain you can self-refer to a physiotherapist for further guidance.