Neck Pain On The Left Side: What You Should Know

left sided neck pain

We usually mention how we are stressed and how our neck muscles are tense. Sometimes, we just need a neck massage and relaxation to take away the pain in our neck. Sometimes, one part of our neck hurts more than the other and we begin to wonder why this is possible.

The neck has a lot of functions such as moving the head and helping out with swallowing as we eat. Due to the many functions and movements of the neck, the neck is prone to injuries which can cause pain in any part of the neck.

In this article, we will be looking at what exactly can cause pain at the left side of the neck and how it can be avoided and treated.

The Neck

the neck

Knowing what the neck is about will enable us to understand why some certain things happen like a pain in the arm for example.

So, the neck connects the head to the rest of the body and a lot of structures travel through the neck from the head to the rest of the body. The neck is supported by muscles and bones that enable us to turn our heads in different directions and many other functions. It acts as a tunnel through which nerves, blood vessels, and other major structures pass through from the brain to the rest of the body.

Major organs pass through our neck as well. Some of these organs are the esophagus which is a passage for our food from the mouth to the stomach, the larynx which is commonly known as our voice box and pharynx.

To have pain in the left side of the neck means to hurt or strain structures found on the left side of the neck which is basically the muscles and nerves found at the left side of the neck.

These nerves found in the left side of the neck supply the left arm. This means if we think about moving our left arm, the brain sends an instruction through the nerves on the left side of the neck to allow that particular movement.

What Causes Pain On The Left Side Of The Neck?

stiff neck remedies

1. Poor Posture

As we sleep at night, there is a tendency for our heads to move around which can place a lot of stress on our neck. Sleeping with our neck under stress can strain the muscles in our neck and if you are a left side sleeper, a pain in the left side of the neck when waking up is certain.

Sitting in a particular position for a long period of time can affect the muscles of the neck. Bending over a laptop for hours or using your phone can overwork the muscles in the neck which can lead to neck pain.

2. Whiplash Injury

A whiplash injury usually happens in a car accident. Whiplash happens when there is a backward and forward movement of the neck. This can cause a strain to the muscles in the neck and can cause pain on the left side of the neck.

3. Spasms

A spasm is a sudden contraction of the muscles that you cannot control. It is like your muscles start to have a mind of their own and contract at will. A sudden contraction of the muscles on the left side of the neck can cause pain.

4. Degenerative Changes In The Neck

getting older

As we grow older, the bones in the neck begin to wear out and this leads to them rubbing against each other. This process is known as a degenerative change and can lead to intense pain in the neck.

5. Pinched Nerve

Nerves originate from the neck to supply our arms. A nerve acts as a communicator between the brain and the part of the body that needs to be used to allow easy movement of that particular body part. Due to degenerative changes or tight muscles, these nerves can be pinched or compressed and this can lead to pain at the neck.

6. Muscle Strain

A strain is an injury to the muscles of the neck (in this case) and when it happens to the neck muscles on the left side, it can cause pain at the left side of the neck. The muscle can be injured if it is overstretched or torn.

7. Tight Muscles

Muscles in the neck can get tight due to improper positioning of the neck. An example is placing your phone between your left ear and left shoulder while you are busy with your hands. If this is repeated every day for long periods of time, the muscles on the left side of the neck may get tight and may eventually lead to pain at the left side of the neck.

Are There Other Things That Come With Neck Pain?

Left neck pain

Apart from neck pain, there are other signs that may accompany the pain. These are:

  1. Pain going down the left hand
  2. Difficulty turning the head to the right
  3. Occasional headaches
  4. Pain at the shoulder
  5. Occasional pain in the upper back
  6. Arm weakness
  7. Facial pain

How Is It Treated

ice treatment

1. Go For A Diagnostic Test

This is usually recommended by a doctor to point out or diagnose the cause of pain. It could be an X-ray which is used to see if there are any issues with the bones or an MRI that is much clearer and can even show the intervertebral discs among the vertebrae.

2. Rest

It is necessary for the neck to be on vacation. It needs to take a break. This, however, may be difficult because the neck movement is necessary for our daily activities. The use of a cervical collar will be very useful in resting the neck and reducing movements at the neck.

3. Ice

Ice is normally used to relieve spasm and muscle pain for the first 72 hours. Crushed ice in a damp towel can be placed at the neck for 15 minutes. Do not massage the neck after using the ice.

4. Medications

medication

Muscle relaxants and pain relievers are usually prescribed by the doctors to help relieve pain and relax any tense muscles at the neck.

5. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy will help restore normal function to the neck and also help in preventing further injuries and pain to the neck. A physiotherapist will assess the neck and carry out some certain orthopedic tests to ensure that there are no associated symptoms or a domino effect from the neck pain like tingling in the fingers.

After the assessment which will also involve questions about occupation and social lifestyle to see the relationship with the left neck pain, goals and treatment plans are drawn up. These are:

    • Pain relief which can be done through the use of thermal therapy which can be ice or heat or the use of a nerve stimulator if it affects the left arm. Massage with pain relieving ointments is also added to the treatment.
    • Stretch tight muscles if there are any. These can be done actively by the client or passively by the physiotherapist
    • Prevent deformities that may occur from favoring the right side due to pain in the left side. The body may adjust in such a way to avoid pain and it may cause the head to be pushed forward or to one side.
    • Relieve additional symptoms such as the sensation in the left arm. This is done through a treatment known as cervical traction.
    • Lifestyle modification can involve changing the posture or modifying how you work to prevent pain.

6. Neck Stretches

Neck stretches

Right Ear To Right Shoulder

  • This can be done sitting or standing
  • Slowly take your right ear to your right shoulder (not your shoulder to meet your ear half way)
  • Do not bounce this movement and ensure the body is not tilted to the right
  • Hold this stretch for 5 seconds
  • Return the head to its neutral position

Chin To Right Shoulder Stretch

  • Twist your head towards your right
  • Let your chin move towards the right shoulder
  • Hold for 5 seconds
  • Return to neutral position

Chin To Chest Stretch

  • Take the chin towards your chest
  • Relax your neck muscles and allow your head to drop forwards without straining
  • Hold for 5 seconds
  • Return to neutral position

Rotation And Extension Stretch

  • This is a mix of 2 stretches.
  • Take the chin towards your right shoulder
  • Place your palm over your head to touch your left ear
  • Pull your head with your chin towards your shoulder slowly to the back
  • Hold for 5 seconds
  • Return to neutral position

How Can It Be Avoided

sleep well

  1. Sleep correctly. It is difficult to stay in a particular position while sleeping but using the right pillows can help to ensure that the neck is well supported and is not under any stress. Sometimes, sleeping without a pillow or using a soft collar or a special neck pillow to sleep can help relieve pain.
  2. Stretch breaks. Staying in a position for a long time can be stressful and sometimes, the muscles just need a break. Stretching the body, especially the neck, can help ease off tension in the neck muscles and prevent pain.
  3. Be active. Change your position once in a while. Alternate between sitting, standing, walking and laying down. Regular exercises also prepare your muscles for any form of work they are to do and can also prevent pain in the neck.

In Summary

Pain in the left side of the neck is almost always due to muscle tightness and overworking the muscles found in the left compartment. It can be treated but it can also be avoided. Pain in the neck can lead to complications so it is better to avoid and prevent the neck pain than to wait for it to become something serious.

Adekanmi Lipede

Adekanmi Lipede is a licensed physiotherapist with a Master's degree in physical activity and public health. She loves to exercise and read.
Adekanmi Lipede