​Axial Neck Pain


The neck is highly vulnerable to injury due to its flexible nature, holding up the weight of your head and being situated in an unprotected location.

Your backbone extends from the base of your head, down to just above the buttocks. The top part constituting the neck is known as the “cervical spine”.

There are a variety of causes of pain in this neck or "cervical spine" region:

  • Muscle strain from prolonged bending of neck. For example reading while lying in bed or hunching over a computer or workplace.

  • Damage to muscles or tendons (whiplash – when head is suddenly jerked backwards)

  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)

  • Cervical disk degeneration

  • Herniated cervical disk – the cushion (disks) between spinal bones slips out from place

  • Inborn abnormality of the bones of neck

  • Meningitis

  • Tumour growths

The skull, backbone (spine) and ribcage are collectively labelled as the “axial skeleton”. So it can be easy to understand that muscular pain (strain or injury) restricted specifically to the cervical area is identified as axial neck pain.

Symptoms of axial neck pain will include

  • Pain at the back of neck

  • Soreness in the neck

  • Muscles in neck might be tight and you could feel spasms

  • If you hold your neck in one position for long, pain may be aggravated, for example during driving or working at a computer

  • Decreased ability to move your head in all direction

  • Headaches

It is always safe to get a bothersome pain checked out. Especially when the pain is severe, persistent for days with no relief, or spreads down to the arms or legs, getting a medical consult would be a good idea. Doctors at the Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital are highly trained professionals who will be able to gauge the severity of your complaints and act accordingly. 

Remember that accompanying headache, weakness, numbness or tingling are not good signs. If you have been in a traffic accident, diving accident or had a fall, then do not hesitate to access the 24/7 Emergency and Acute Care Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital for immediate and thorough evaluation.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

After asking questions about your medical history, your physician may ask you to perform certain movements of your neck and arms. Sensation in the same region would probably be assessed too. If need be, additional testing may be required:

  • Blood test – to rule out inflammatory (reactionary) processes

  • Imaging - X-ray, Computerized Tomography (CT) scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for viewing internal structures

  • Electromyography – to analyse nerve function

For axial neck pain, the nature of injury or cause, along with your overall assessment and test results will guide your health care provider to choose from these options:

  • Rest

  • Painkiller

  • Neck brace/soft collar

  • Physiotherapy

  • Traction

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - therapy that uses low voltage electrical current for relief

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​