A neck spasm is a sudden and involuntary contraction, or uncontrollable tightening and shaking, of a muscle in response to strain, overuse, weakness, or muscle pain related to injury or a disorder. In some conditions, such as cervical dystonia, the spasm may cause your head to turn or jerk. Some, but not all, neck spasms occur close enough to the spinal cord or to the nerve roots leading in and out of the spinal cord to put pressure on one of these sensitive nerves, and sometimes cause severe pain.

Neck spasms can be caused by a tic, muscle strain, or muscle tension, either from physical exertion, such as heavy lifting, a strenuous workout, or from tensing the muscles unconsciously in response to stress. You may also strain a muscle in response to pain from another condition. Neck spasms can also occur as a side effect of certain medications, including haloperidol (Haldol) and metoclopramide (Reglan).

In addition, neck spasms can be symptomatic of either an injury such as a fracture or another disorder, such as:

  • Spasmodic torticollis (also known as cervical dystonia)
  • A chronic disorder that causes involuntary movements of the neck
  • Cervical spondylosis (degenerative disc disease in the neck)
  • Herniated disc
  • Viral infection
  • Degenerative disc disease (caused by wear and tear and the effects of aging on the spine)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, creating pressure on the spinal cord or nerves)
  • Tension headache
  • Fibromyalgia (a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness, and tenderness)

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