Typically, if you have pain around the front of your neck, you may assume it’s caused by a sore throat. While this is one possible condition that can cause your front neck muscles to be sore, if your pain is not accompanied with other cold or flu symptoms and instead feels tied to the motion of your neck, you may instead have a musculoskeletal injury.
This type of injury refers to damage in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves. You may feel this pain in just one area of the body, such as your back and neck. About half of all individuals will experience a neck pain episode over the course of their lifetime. As such, it’s important to know the potential causes of neck pain, as well as what treatment options are available.
4 common issues that can lead to sore muscles in the front of your neck
If you are experiencing pain or soreness in your front neck muscles, you may have one of these injuries or conditions:
- Strain — A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, happens when a muscle is overstretched or torn. While strains can happen in any muscle, they are most common in your lower back, neck, shoulder and hamstring. Muscle strain in the neck typically occurs due to overuse. A variety of day-to-day activities can cause this, such as hunching over a smartphone or desk at work. As a result, you may experience sore front neck muscles, especially from a strain in the side of your neck. Other symptoms may include shoulder pain and headache.
- Whiplash — Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a force rapidly moving your head forward, backward or sideways. This sudden motion causes your neck’s tendons and ligaments to stretch and/or tear. These injuries are collectively known as whiplash, or cervical strain. Whiplash commonly occurs during a motor vehicle collision but can also be caused by a fall or a blow to the head. Whiplash can cause sore or tender front neck muscles, as well as stiffness and headache.
- Tendinitis — Tendinitis is the inflammation of your tendons, thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. While tendinitis is most common around your shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels, it can occur in any tendon. This includes the tendons in your neck. Repetitive action is the most common cause of tendinitis; as such, you may be at a higher risk of tendinitis if you regularly participate in certain sports, such as tennis, golf or bowling. Jobs that require physical exertion, overhead lifting or repetitive motions may also put you at higher risk for tendinitis.
- Cramps or spasms — Cramps are the sudden, involuntary tightening of one or more muscles and can cause intense pain. Sometimes called a charley horse, muscle cramps most commonly occur in the calves, feet and hands. However, they can happen in any part of your body where there is muscle, including the neck. You might develop a neck spasm if you strain your neck during exercise, carry a heavy item with one or both arms, or place a lot of weight on one shoulder with a heavy bag. Neck spasms can also be caused by poor posture and dehydration. When a neck muscle suddenly contracts, it can make the front of your neck sore.
How can you treat sore muscles in the front of your neck?
Your neck pain doesn’t have to be a permanent part of your everyday life; you can try at-home and clinical treatments to relieve your discomfort. Those treatments can include:
- Stretches — Most common, nonserious causes of neck pain can be treated through gentle stretching exercises. Gently flexing your neck forward and backward or side to side can help relax the muscles in the front of your neck, alleviating pain and soreness. Be sure to check in with your health care provider or physical therapist before incorporating neck exercises into your daily routine.
- Physical therapy — Physical therapists are trained to treat the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other tissue of the human musculoskeletal system. This training allows them to diagnose neck issues and to help you figure out how to best treat your sore front neck muscles. A physical therapist may recommend a variety of therapy methods, such as:
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy is a technique where a physical therapist uses their hands to move and manipulate the joints and soft tissue. Studies have shown that manual therapy, when used in combination with other therapeutic techniques, can lead to quicker reductions in neck pain.
- Therapeutic exercises — A physical therapist may prescribe therapeutic exercise as part of your treatment plan. These exercise programs are designed to help correct impairments and restore muscular and skeletal function.
- Dry needling — Dry needling involves inserting tiny needles into the skin to relieve tension in trigger points or tight bands in the muscles. This can lead to decreased pain and improved muscular function.
Back in Motion PT is prepared to help reduce your front-of-neck muscle soreness
Determined to reduce pain and soreness in your neck muscles? Our team at Back in Motion Physical Therapy is primed to help you meet this goal.
Contact one of our front desk coordinators today to schedule your free 15-minute screening to determine if physical therapy can help treat your sore front neck muscles.