Is Neck Pain a Sign of Cancer?
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Neck Pain - Causes, Symptoms for Cancer, and Treatment

Published on Mar 14, 2023 and last reviewed on Jun 27, 2023   -  5 min read


Neck pain can be a sign of cancer but not always. Neck pain results from various causes or underlying medical conditions. Read this article to know more.


Neck pain is also called cervical pain. Neck pain is the fourth most common disability, with an annual prevalence rate of more than 30%. Most acute neck pain episodes go away with or without therapy. However, about 50% of people continue to feel pain or encounter them frequently.

The combination of detailed history and physical examination can be used to diagnose the underlying cause of neck pain. In addition, the presence of "red flags" such as myelopathy, atlantoaxial subluxation, and metastases can be utilized to determine whether the pain is neuropathic or mechanical, and to determine whether it is present. However, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) characterizes a high prevalence of abnormal findings in asymptomatic individuals.

Patients with neck pain benefit from exercise therapy. Corticosteroid injections and muscle relaxants can treat acute neck discomfort caused by muscle spasms. Surgery is more successful than nonsurgical therapy in the short term but ineffective in the long duration for individuals with radiculopathy or myelopathy.

What Is Neck Pain?

Cervical pain is also known as neck pain. Cervical pain is defined as pain in the nape of the neck portion. Neck discomfort ranks after back pain, depression, and arthralgias as the fourth most common cause of time lost to disability, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study. Almost half the population have a neck pain episode that is clinically significant throughout their lives. Females are more likely to experience neck pain, which is most common throughout middle age. Neck pain is associated with other co-morbidities, such as depression, arthralgias, back pain, and headaches.

The following are the types of neck pain:

What Are the Causes of Neck Pain?

Neck pain is caused due to many reasons. Neck pain can be indicative of cancer also. However, neck pain is not something to worry about. Neck pain resolves by itself within a few days. Most commonly, persistent neck pain is caused due to musculoskeletal conditions, rheumatologic conditions, genetic factors, or psychopathological conditions.

According to research, neck pain is more common among professionals such as office workers, computer employees, manual laborers, and healthcare professionals. Low-job satisfaction and a perceived unpleasant work environment are main workplace factors linked to the disease. In addition, neck pain can result from referred pain from other sites.

The following are the causes of the neck pain:

  • Psychosocial issues such as depression, anxiety, and poor coping skills.

  • Headache.

  • Sleep disorders.

  • Smoking.

  • Sedentary lifestyle.

  • Obesity.

  • Systemic inflammation.

  • Increased mechanical stress.

  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as diminished muscle strength.

  • Traumatic injuries.

  • Incorrect posture can also result in neck pain.

  • Sports injuries (wrestling, ice hockey, football, etc.).

  • Certain occupations (computer workers, manual laborers, and health care workers).

  • Referred pain.

Can Neck Pain Be a Sign of Cancer?

Neck pain is a common health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Various factors, such as poor posture, injury, or underlying medical conditions, can cause neck pain. One of the concerns that some people have is whether neck pain could be a sign of cancer. The fact of the matter is that neck pain can be a symptom of cancer, but it is not always the case.

Several types of cancer can cause neck pain, including throat cancer, lymphoma, and thyroid cancer. However, most neck pain cases are unrelated to cancer. It is worth noting that some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing cancer that may cause neck pain. For example, tobacco and alcohol use is linked to an increased risk of throat cancer. Exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV) can also increase the risk of developing throat cancer. If you have these risk factors or notice any suspicious symptoms, you should inform your healthcare provider.

When to Worry About Neck Pain?

If someone is experiencing neck pain, it is essential to visit a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause. They may conduct a physical exam and order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, to help identify the cause of the pain. It is important to take medical help promptly, particularly if the pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, breathing, or speaking.

What Is the Treatment for Neck Pain?

The main objective of the treatment of neck pain is treating the underlying causes. Most cases of neck discomfort will go away in two months, but 50% of patients may still experience some pain or frequent flare-ups a year after the first incident. Treatment has minimal impact on persistent acute discomfort.

Cervical and scapular stretching and strengthening exercises have been found to provide intermediate-term relief for mechanical neck pain. Physical therapy accompanied by home exercises and using a cervical collar produced greater reductions in neck pain and disability over six weeks than a “wait and see” approach.

Systemic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are beneficial for spinal pain and acute or subacute neck pain. Acute neck pain can be relieved by muscle relaxant Cyclobenzaprine. Muscle relaxants generally work better for acute pain than chronic pain. Many specialists agree that benzodiazepines should only be used when other muscle relaxants have failed due to their abuse potential and lack of better efficacy than other muscle relaxants.

These are the following alternative treatments for neck pain:

  • Spinal Manipulation - Manual therapy designed to maximize painless movement, reduce muscle tightness, improve joint mobility, and correct alignment problems.

  • Acupuncture - Acupuncture is a technique in which needles are inserted into the skin at various locations to reduce pain or induce anesthesia. Needles may be manipulated manually or through electrical stimulation.

  • Massage Therapy - Massage therapy helps relax the muscle, enhance function, and promote relaxation and well-being.

  • Exercise therapy - Active or passive physical exercises designed to strengthen or stabilize the spine that may reduce pain, prevent injuries, and improve posture and body mechanics.

  • Yoga - A series of physical, mental, and spiritual exercises designed to achieve a peaceful state of mind, improve conditioning, and attain self-actualization.


Neck pain can be an indicator of cancer, but it is essential to remember that this is not always the case. Neck pain can result from various causes, from muscle strain to underlying medical conditions. If someone has neck pain associated with headache, disturbed sleep, and other commodities, seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. Physiotherapy accompanied by home exercises and pharmacotherapy can resolve any type of neck pain. The prognosis is excellent.

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Last reviewed at:
27 Jun 2023  -  5 min read




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