Neck Pain in Children: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


On certain days with intense physical activities the child may complain of having neck pain. In certain cases, however the neck pain could be worse than it seems and not temporary at all. While most neck pain is caused due to a muscle strain in the area, some illnesses or physical conditions might also be a precursor to it.

In this article:

Causes of Neck Pain in Children
Signs and Symptoms of Neck Pain in Children
Diagnosis of Neck Pain in Children
Treatment for Neck Pain in Children
Prevention of Neck Pain in Children
When to See a Doctor

All You Need to Know about Neck Pain in Children

neck pain in children

Causes of Neck Pain in Children

Some of the common causes of neck pain in children are –

  • Muscle strain – all children have the necks bent down while playing around in digital devices. Certain games may involve using the neck a lot or child may dance around which puts excessive strain on the neck.
  • Lymph node infection – this condition is not restricted to children and can occur in adults, too. Since the lymph node is located in the neck region, any swelling or inflammation can cause it to push against the neck muscles causing them to spasm.
  • Injury due to whiplash – this is usually accidental and mostly observed in sports or ecstatic moments or worst cases like vehicular collisions. If the head snaps in a sudden jerk it causes the neck ligaments to abnormally stretch.
  • Major injuries – in case the injury is more than just snapping of the head, the intense pain could be due to damage to the spine or the spinal cord itself. This is highly dangerous and needs immediate examination.
  • Meningitis – the bacteria of meningitis directly affects the brain and the spinal cord and is life-threatening. Any symptoms of these should be immediately shown to the doctor and addressed quickly.

Signs and Symptoms of Neck Pain in Children

Signs and symptoms of neck pain in children are rather apparent and can be spotted easily which includes –

  • Pain is observed in the rear portion of the neck
  • Shoulder blades start aching as well and are relieved on massaging them
  • Child cannot move the neck easily without grimacing in pain
  • General demeanor of sitting straight is accompanied by holding the neck stiffly
  • Child keeps tilting the head slightly from one side to another
  • Region around the neck seems slightly swollen and hurts when touched

Diagnosis of Neck Pain in Children

Neck pain in a child is usually diagnosed appropriately by a doctor. Doctors take a look at the child and talk to both of you to get an idea of the activities preceding the pain such as injuries or strenuous activities, any symptoms of illness or so on. The doctor may also try to turn the neck in various directions gradually and note the signs where the pain seems highest. If deemed necessary, the doctor may also recommend an x-ray or any other scans to get a better look at the neck from inside. If there are signs of an infection, antibiotics and some pain relievers too are prescribed.

Treatment for Neck Pain in Children

Child’s neck pain can be treated –

  • Use painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen or any others recommended by the doctor.
  • With a hot water bag, spasms in the area of the neck and shoulders can be reduced. Apply them for half an hour or so regularly through the day.

Take care of children at home –

  • Adopt a better sleeping position by replacing the pillow with a towel or neck support.
  • Avoid any exercises or sudden movements of any sort. Do not play sports that will involve physical stress or any exercises for the neck, too.
  • Do allow the muscles to stretch gently over time. Basic stretching movements such as touching the chin to the shoulder, the chest, tilting it sideways, are great without application of any resistance.

Prevention of Neck Pain in Children

Ask the child to avoid activities such as carrying heavy objects on head or wrestling around with the friends, if having a history of neck ache. By reducing the triggers, then focus on strengthening the neck muscles of the child. Simple stretching exercises everyday for a few minutes while using the computer or while lying down and reading a book, can prevent cramps from occurring and reduce the pain.

When to See a Doctor

  • The neck pain is accompanied by extremely high fever.
  • Along with pain the child experiences an intense headache, feel sick, and nauseous.
  • The pain gets more severe even after painkillers and numbness starts setting in.
  • Even after administering treatment for a bunch of days, there has been no improvement.
  • A period of a few weeks has passed but the pain has not completely subsided.


Neck pain needs to be treated with just as much care as any other injury or illness. Timely intervention in most cases can reduce the duration where the child experiences discomfort.