Neck Pain In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Is your little one complaining of neck pain? It is often caused by a muscle strain or an injury. If the pain is tolerable, you can help in relieving the pain at home. Read on to know how.

By Amruta Deshpande  • 8 min read

Neck Pain In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Lifting heavy objects can also lead to neck pain

Abhinav Hunsur, a 12-year-old loves to play cricket with his friends in the neighbourhood ground. One day, after play, Abhinav complains of severe pain in his neck area. He has difficulty in raising his hands too. At night, he is unable to fall asleep due to the pain in the neck.

Abhinav is not alone, we often hear children complain about neck pain. Often, it is caused due to continuous physical activity or sleeping in a wrong position. Neck pain is considered as a temporary problem and in most cases, we apply some pain-relieving balm and tell the children to stretch the neck. If the pain is severe, it needs to be checked by the doctor before it escalates.

Why do children have neck pain?

Often, children remain engrossed in phones or books. They don’t realise that their necks are bent downwards for long periods of time. This can also lead to neck pain. Other activities such as lifting heavy objects might also lead to neck pain. Some common causes of neck pain in children are:

Muscle strain: Muscle strain is the most common reason for neck pain. Children sleep in awkward positions or play and dance around whipping their head side to side or sit with head bent on the books and mobiles for long hours. This can cause pain in the neck.

Injury due to whiplash: Whiplash is when the head jerks around suddenly which causes the neck ligaments to stretch abnormally. This happens when the children get really excited or are playing some sport. It can also happen due to a car accident.

Lymph Node Infection: The lymph node is near the neck region, so when they are swollen, it pushes against the neck muscles which causes spasm and irritation. This condition can happen to anyone and not just children.

Meningitis: Meningitis, a life-threatening disease, affects the brain and the spinal cord. Thus, it is important to know the symptoms. If you have a headache, fever and stiff neck; and pain in the back, muscles or neck, it is important that you consult a doctor immediately.

Injuries: Major injuries can also cause pain in the neck. It could damage the spinal cord and it should be examined immediately.

Understanding the severity:

Mild Pain: When your child can continue his normal activities and daily routine even after complaining of neck pain.

Moderate pain: Your child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to the neck pain. The pain starts to bother the child and upsets him. 

Severe pain: When your child cannot do anything because of the pain they are in. This is where the medical help is required immediately.

Treatment for the neck pain:

In case of extreme pain, you should consult the doctor. Like for Lymph Node infection, meningitis or severe injury, doctor consultation is vital. But in case, the child has mild pain, these home remedies can help.

Here are some of the ways you can help your child to get rid of neck pain:

Change the pillow: Neck pain can happen due to the awkward sleeping position or wrong pillow. Change the pillow immediately. Use a soft one, which the child is comfortable sleeping on. Or instead of a pillow, roll a soft towel or use a soft cloth while sleeping. This way their head won’t move much.

Give heat therapy: When the child is having neck pain, apply a heat pack or hot water bottle to the area for 15-20 mins. Repeat this process 6-7 times during the day. The heat will relieve the muscle strain.

Rest: Children are active and sitting in one place for a long time can irritate them. But during neck injury, ensure that the child gets some rest and ask him to avoid sudden jerky movements. Keep him engaged in activities which won’t involve much physical action, but will entertain him

Stretching: Ask the child to stretch his neck to reduce the pain. Ask him to tilt their head to one side and hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat the process on the second side.

Your child can also tilt her head up and down and in a circle. She can also roll her shoulder forward and backward. This way the tension in the muscles in the neck will go away. But make sure that the child is doing this gently.

Breathing and relaxation: Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help in reducing the stress in the neck and shoulders.

If the above home remedies don’t work, then consult the doctor and ask for some pain medication if the pain is unbearable. Don’t self-medicate the child as we are not aware of which medicine is good for the child and which is not.

Prevention is better than cure:

Once your child is hale and hearty, sit him down and give him some instructions to prevent further pain in the neck in future. Ask your child to avoid carrying heavy objects on the head. Many times, children while playing do such activities which can jerk around the head or put a lot of strain on the neck. Ask them to avoid such activities. And when the child is reading books while laying down or using the computer, ask them to stretch their neck gently. This would reduce the tension around the neck and shoulder area. A good posture and little caution can prevent neck pain or muscle strains in children.

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