Neck Pain in Children: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Neck Pain in Children

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

On certain days with intense physical activities, children may begin complaining of neck pain. Sometimes, rest may resolve the issue. In certain cases, however, the neck pain could be worse than it seems and not temporary at all. This needs to be investigated and diagnosed to check for any severity.

What is Neck Pain?

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. Instances have been known of glands being swollen in the area of the beck due to viral or bacterial infection as well.

What Causes Neck Pain in Kids?

Some of the common causes of neck pain in kids are,

1. Muscle Strain

Today, all kids have their necks bent down as they play around on digital devices. Certain games may involve using the neck a lot, or kids may dance around which puts excessive strain on the neck.

2. Lymph Node Infection

This condition is not restricted to kids 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.

3. 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.

4. Major Injuries

In case the injury is more than just the 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.

5. 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.

When Can Neck Pain be More Serious?

In cases of neck pain fever in a child, there is a higher risk of the pain being a result of an infection and not a physical injury. Further accompanied by vomiting, rashes, and nausea, these could also be a result of insect bites or, in worst cases, cancer.

How Long Does Neck Pain Last in Children?

If the neck pain is a result of an infection or a severity, the pain will require time to subside until the infection has been cured. If there is child neck pain after fall or due to physical stress on the neck muscles, such pain should disappear within a couple of weeks at most, with proper care.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of neck pain in children are rather apparent and can be spotted easily.

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

Signs and Symptoms

How is Neck Pain Diagnosed in A Child?

Neck pain in a child is usually diagnosed appropriately by a physician. He would take a look at your child and talk to both of you to get an idea of the activities preceding the pain, such as any injuries or strenuous activities, any symptoms of illness or so on. The physician may also try to turn the neck in various directions gradually and note the signs where the pain seems highest. If deemed necessary, he 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, he may prescribe antibiotics and some pain relievers, too.

Types of Pain Scale

The discomfort caused by neck pain can be scaled as follows,

1. Mild Pain

This is usually when there is side neck pain in children and they come and tell you about it. It does not restrict them from their general activities and the daily routine continues as usual.

2. Moderate Pain

The pain starts getting intense and your child may have trouble falling asleep or getting a sound sleep. It gradually causes him to get irritated with it.

3. Severe Pain

At the highest scale, your child cannot bear the pain anymore and the entire daily routine falls into disarray. This is where medical intervention may be required.

How is a Child’s Neck Pain Treated?

  • Use painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen or any others recommended by your 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 throughout the day.

How to Take Care of Your Child at Home

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

How Can Neck Pain Be Prevented?

Ask your child to avoid activities such as carrying heavy objects on his head, or wrestling around with his friends, if he has a history of neck ache. By reducing the triggers, you can then focus on strengthening the neck muscles of your child. Simple stretching exercises every day 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 Consult a Doctor

Consult a doctor if:

  • The neck pain is accompanied by extremely high fever.
  • Your child experiences an intense headache, feel sick and nauseous along with the pain.
  • 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 past 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 your child experiences discomfort. Any severe or extreme cases can be nipped in the bud and your child can return to his daily routine almost in no time.

Also Read:

Natural Remedies for Fever in Kids
How to Deal with Migraines in Children

Previous article «
Next article »