Cervicalgia: Description, Types, Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

It refers to a pain in the cervical region.


If you have cervical pain, then you have a pain in the neck that does not spread to the upper extremities. While in many cases, neck pain (cervicalgia) may be minor and disappear in a matter of days, there are those who suffer constant discomfort with this condition.

The term cervicalgia comes from the Latin term “cervic”, which means neck, and the Greek word “algos”, which means pain.

The neck is part of the cervical spine and cervicalgia is a way of describing the intense discomfort and discomfort that this type of pain in the neck brings. Research shows that, for some reason, more women than men suffer from neck pain.

The cervical spine is a complex structure that supports the head. It is formed by small vertebrae, discs, joints, nerve roots, muscles and ligaments. This complex and flexible system means that the area is prone to injury and pain.

Having pain in the neck can slow you down. It can affect your work and other daily activities. Some people are lucky and the symptoms resolve themselves in a few days.

Others may not be as fortunate, and severe neck pain can cause other problems, such as dizziness and frequent headaches.


It is important to know that there are two types of cervical pain; acute and chronic

Acute cervicalgia: a severe stabbing pain or a throbbing pain that can move to the shoulders.

Some people who suffer from acute cervicalgia have weakness in the arms or loss of coordination in the arms and legs. If you ever experience this or have neck pain accompanied by lack of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, it could indicate an infection or a spinal tumor.

Chronic cervicalgia: is best described as a pain that is present for a prolonged period.

A pinched nerve is a frequent cause of chronic neck pain, but there are other possible causes. Treatment is required for the cervical herniated disc, which tightens a nerve, but the intensity of the pain will determine if a non-surgical or surgical approach is necessary.

Causes of Cervicalgia

All cervical structures can cause pain in the neck when they are irritated or inflamed. How does this happen? The list below covers the causes of cervicalgia:

Injury / trauma: during accidents, people may experience a whiplash. This type of injury is a hyperextension of the neck because the head is forced to move forward or backward beyond the normal range of motion of the neck.

This has a strong impact on the muscles and ligaments of the neck, which produces weakness, pain and stiffness. Sports injuries can cause microscopic tears in the neck muscles, creating inflammation.

Age: we experience degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease as we get older.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that causes the body to form bone spurs that can affect the movement of the joints. The degenerative discs affect the intervertebral discs so that they lose elasticity and height. As the disorder progresses, a bulging or herniated disc may occur.

Diseases / conditions : in these cases, neck pain cervicalgia should be taken seriously. It could be a spinal infection, a fracture or a tumor that causes pain and discomfort.

Sitting too long : yes, sitting in a chair too long can cause pain in the neck. It is important to take breaks from time to time while you work.

If you sit at a desk working for long hours, you should make sure you have a proper configuration to avoid neck pain. There are experts in ergonomics that can help you with this.

Kyphosis : This is a condition that affects athletes, including cyclists, baseball receivers and bodybuilders. These people tend to stand with their shoulders forward and their chins raised. Any movement that promotes this type of posture can cause kyphosis.

Lifestyle : Poor posture, obesity and weak abdominal muscles can cause the neck to tilt forward, putting pressure on the neck and shoulder area. This produces muscle pain and stiffness.

Sleeping on your stomach: people who sleep on their stomachs can increase stress on the neck and experience pain and tightness.

Stress : when we are under stress, we can develop tensed and pressed muscles in the neck, back and shoulders. Most people do not even realize when they are tightening their neck muscles.

Poor post-training: incomplete or deficient stretching after physical training can produce tense and sore muscles. Think of stretching after a workout to cool your muscles.

Signs and symptoms

As mentioned above, neck pain is usually local, which means it does not radiate to other parts of the body.

Some people with cervical pain in the neck will be lucky to come out with mild symptoms, such as stiff neck for a few days or difficulty moving the head from side to side. Some people call this “a cramp in the neck.”

However, not all have mild symptoms. For some people, neck pain can be severe and debilitating. Severe pain, inflammation and muscle stiffness make movement difficult.

A symptom of neck pain is a sharp pain in the neck when the head is suddenly moved. In some cases, this can happen every time the person tries to move their neck. The following list covers some of the other symptoms of cervicalgia that people may experience:

  • Headaches (possibly migraines )
  • Burning sensation
  • Sensation of pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Night sweats.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Facial pain

For the most part, the diagnosis of minor cervicalgia is not difficult. A physical examination can quickly detect symptoms and a quick discussion with the doctor can usually identify the cause.

When the cause is not obvious, a detailed medical history will be compiled and diagnostic tests ordered. For example, X-rays can reveal narrowing of the disc space, the presence of osteoarthritis and fractures.

Magnetic resonances can be performed to determine if a person has a bulging or herniated disc. Here are some other typical tests:

  • Bone scan: detects spinal problems, such as arthritis, fractures or infections.
  • Nerve conduction : studies or electromyography to determine if the patient has nerve damage.
  • Discogram: you can confirm or rule out problems with discs in the neck.
  • Myelogram: determines if a person has an injury to the spinal canal or spinal cord .

During a physical examination, the doctor not only looks at the patient’s spine, but also performs a neurological examination that involves examining the upper and lower limbs, checking for abnormal gait and any problems in the bladder or bowel.

If the doctor detects heat in the muscles or joints of the neck, it could be a sign of an underlying inflammatory problem or condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis .

When pain is experienced when light pressure is applied on specific tender points in the neck, as well as in other parts of the body, the doctor may suspect fibromyalgia .


Many people see an improvement in their neck pain in just days or weeks with some care at home. Exactly how the pain should be treated depends largely on the cause.

For example, if you suspect a muscle breakdown due to a sports injury or some other type of trauma, applying ice is a good way to relieve swelling and pain. However, heat should be avoided as it could worsen the situation.

If cervicalgia is the result of tension instead of injury, heat can be effective in relaxing muscles and relieving neck pain. No matter what the cause of cervicalgia, adequate rest is always useful.

Let’s see some other possible cervicalgia treatments:

Stretching the neck: neck exercises every day can help. Wait until the worst of the pain disappears and then try to exercise the neck. Heating the area with a heating pad or taking a hot shower or bath can also be useful. The head turns are a stretch for your neck.

Just look forward, turn your head to the side as if looking over your shoulder and hold it like that for five or ten seconds. Then you can slowly turn 180 degrees in the other direction and hold it again for five to ten seconds. Repeat the neck exercise three to five times per day.

Analgesics: Some people seek instant relief so they can move to neck pain exercises. These people have the option of taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. They combine pain relief with an anti-inflammatory effect. Some people prefer injections.

Necklaces: neck collars restrict the movement of the neck and hold the head so that tension is removed from the neck. Of course, lying down can also limit the movement of the neck and decrease the tension so that the muscles can heal.

Cervical traction: this is a technique whereby the traction pulls gently on the head and stretches the neck muscles. You can increase the size of the neural passages.

Physical therapy : patients with cervicalgia can work with a physiotherapist who can develop a treatment plan that can include exercises for neck pain, heat / cold therapy, massage and other techniques.

Surgery:  although it can be complicated, cervical spinal surgery becomes necessary in some cases of severe pain in the neck. Normally, neck pain has not responded to other conservative measures. Many factors will be evaluated before recommending surgery.

Fortunately, many people with cervicalgia will only suffer it temporarily, since it is most likely due to sleeping in an awkward position, standing or sitting in an inadequate position or not dealing well with stress.

Neck pain exercises can make a big difference for these people.

No matter what the cause of cervicalgia, there is no denying that it can be uncomfortable and harmful to your life. For those who have suffered an injury or trauma and have neck pain, it is important to take time to heal before re-immersing yourself in your normal activity or sport.

When neck pain is severe and persistent, it should be addressed in consultation with a medical professional, as ignoring the symptoms can make the condition worse.