Common Causes of Neck Pain

Dr. Grant Lum, MD, CCFP, Dip Sports Med, Sports Medicine Physician, discusses common causes of neck pain.

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Dr. Grant Lum, MD, CCFP, Dip Sports Med, Sports Medicine Physician, discusses common causes of neck pain.
Video transcript

Dr. Grant Lum, MD, CCFP, Dip Sports Med, Sports Medicine Physician, discusses common causes of neck pain.

Neck pain is a very common problem that sports medicine doctors take care of. Often they can occur on the basis of trauma.

So of course people who have had injuries landing on the head, striking the head or neck like in hockey, this kind of thing happens pretty often. But we also see lots of injuries that happen as a consequence simply of posture.

So imagine this is a lower back model but looks very much like the neck. If this is you facing forwards, then those joints are in here, and they’re called facette or facet joints because they’re flat like the facet of a diamond.

As you tilt your head forward, those joints open, but as you tilt your head back, the joints close, and that applies pressure to the joints, and that can lead to inflammation and pain. In some patients, it’s the consequence of sitting at a desk all day.

Typically, when people have poor posture they get their head moving forward, and so this causes the joints to pushed up against one another. So sitting like this all day in front of a computer, for example, can create a lot of pain in the neck.

In the case of people who have a neck trauma where, for example, someone’s cross-checked on the ice, or they’re tackling, and the head makes contact with the opponent player, those kinds of hyperextension injuries can actually lead to fractures of the neck also.

In most cases of these facet injuries that are more minor, where facet pain is there without a fracture, we treat that typically with things like ice, anti-inflammatories, and physiotherapy. But most importantly we want to reinforce to people that they need to maintain good upright posture to take pressure off of those joints.

The most important thing to consider when treating these kinds of injuries is whether or not there are any neurologic symptoms. So if people have numbness or tingling going down into the arm or hand, that could signal a more serious problem with a pinched nerve as a consequence of inflammation around these joints.

That type of problem typically happens more often the older we get because those joints get built up a little bit through the process of osteoarthritis. So we build up excess bone which then makes the opening for the nerve in the neck smaller, and it makes it easier to pinch the nerve.

If you think you have a facet joint problem in your neck, or have any questions, you could consult a physiotherapist or a sports medicine doctor.

Video shot in conjunction with Dr Grant Lum and

Presenter: Dr. Grant Lum, Sports Medicine Physician, Toronto, ON

Local Practitioners: Sports Medicine Physician

Neck Injury Video Quiz ( 39 participated.)

Neck Pain Causes


Neck pain can be caused not only by trauma but by bad posture.


Incorrect posture over periods of time can cuase the neck facet joints to compress and cause pain and inflammation.


A sport like hockey can cause neck injury and pain due to cross checking and impact intot he boards.


If a patient is showing neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the hands, it is unlikely to be an issue coming from the neck.

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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