Front Neck Pain

By Jay Herrera, DPT

Front Neck Pain

What Can Cause Front Neck Pain?

Pain in the front of your neck can be caused by various factors. First, it is important to rule out potentially serious causes, such as tumors,  infection and other problems, so having it checked by a professional is always a good idea. 

Let’s assume though that we are talking about a musculoskeletal cause.  Muscle tension is a common culprit. Most people have forward head drift causing a shortening of the muscles in the front of the neck. Look around you and you will probably see people whose heads are pushed forward. It is particularly common in people who spend a lot of time on a computer or cell phone, or who just have poor posture. This constant tension can cause pain as the muscle is essentially getting choked off as a limited blood supply is available to that muscle’s tissues. Imagine making a fist, and holding it.  You can do it for a short time, but after a while, your hand muscles will fatigue, in part because the contraction of the hand muscles can reduce the blood supply to those same muscles.  A similar process occurs when you hold your head too far forward for long periods of time

Treatment Options and What to Expect:

Typically gentle stretching combined with soft tissue massage can be very effective at improve reducing  the muscle tension and improving blood flow to the effected affected muscle. Better blood flow allows the muscle to work better, and can reduce pain.  Of course, if you continue to hold your head in a forward position, you haven’t really fixed the problem!

One word of caution about massaging the front of the neck: there are structures called carotid bodies that lie on both sides of the neck about an inch below the angle of the jaw over the carotid artery. Massaging those vigorously can cause a sudden drop in heart rate and/or blood pressure and should be avoided.