Victoria Fanslau is a medical content writer and an experienced nurse with five years of experience working in acute care hospital settings on medical/surgical units and primary care. She is passionate about helping others better understand the complexities of healthcare through her writing. With her knowledge, Victoria can break down complex topics into user-friendly information that is engaging and informative. She has a knack for writing compelling and interesting medical content that resonates with readers.
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Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Coughing can cause pain not only in the chest but also in the neck. It’s crucial to find out what’s causing your neck to hurt when you cough. Afterward, you’ll be able to get the right care. Learn why coughing causes neck pain and what you can do to relieve it.
Table of Contents
- What Is Neck Pain?
- Neck Pain Symptoms
- What Causes Neck Pain When Coughing?
- How to Relieve and Treat Neck Pain From Coughing?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is Neck Pain?
Cervical spine discomfort occurs in or around the area of the spine beneath the head known as the neck. Many different injuries and medical disorders can cause neck pain.
It is possible that you are experiencing radicular or axial neck aches, which is where pain shoots into other areas such as the shoulders or your arm. Your neck pain can be acute (lasting a few days to up to six weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than six weeks).
If left untreated, neck pain can have a negative impact on your quality of life.
Neck Pain Symptoms
Some of the signs and symptoms are:
- A headache that gets worse when you keep your head in one place for a long time, like when you drive or work on a computer.
- Tight muscles and spasms
- Less freedom to move your head
- A constant headache
What Causes Neck Pain When Coughing?
There are a number of reasons you may experience neck pain when coughing including:
Cold and Flu Symptoms
Most cold and flu viruses cause your muscles to hurt and ache. There are also several lymph nodes, which are also called glands, in the neck. When sick, these can swell and hurt. Your neck may feel stiff if your lymph nodes are swollen. They may get so big that you feel like you have lumps in your neck. This can lead to you getting neck pain when you cough.
When you’re sick and have to lie down for long periods, this is for good reason because you need plenty of rest when sick. It is easy for your neck to get tired from certain positions and even get kinked as you get the extra sleep you need to get better. If you want to minimize this being the cause of your neck pain when coughing, try getting up to move and ensuring you have proper support for your neck when lying down.
A Sore Throat
Pain from a sore throat can also sometimes spread to the neck. This is called “referred pain.” In this case, otalgia may also happen. This is ear pain.
When you cough, you may injure your neck muscles. Coughing will be painful until the strained muscles heal if this happens. Resting the stressed muscles will help them recuperate. Rest your neck to the best of your ability, even if you’re still coughing. Allow the muscles in your neck to rest by not moving them. The affected muscles should be iced and anti-inflammatory drugs taken for the first few days. After a few days, your muscles should begin to feel better. After that, you can use heat to relax the muscles. Lightly stretch your muscles to help blood flow to them.
When coughing, ruptured discs in the neck might cause discomfort. Pain radiating from the neck to other parts of the body might be caused by compressed and pinched nerves in the cervical spine. The tingling and numbness you feel in your arms and hands may also be a symptom. A selective nerve root block may be indicated to alleviate the pain. Physical therapy may also be prescribed by your doctor to help ease your discomfort. Surgery is a last resort in some circumstances, but not always.
How to Relieve and Treat Neck Pain From Coughing?
You may experience neck pain when coughing, but there are ways to alleviate it at home. Some of the most commonly used therapies include:
Application of Ice and Heat
If you have neck pain as a result of a cold or flu, apply an ice pack or a heating pad. Inflammation in the neck can be reduced by applying ice to the area, while heat relaxes stiff muscles. Because there are no hard-and-fast rules, you may need to explore.
Oral pain relievers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can help relieve neck pain. If you’re taking other medications, they may interact negatively with OTC pain relievers, so be careful not to double dose.
Aspirin may help adults, but children who take it risk developing Reye’s syndrome.
Naproxen sodium is similar to ibuprofen. Unless instructed otherwise, don’t mix ibuprofen with naproxen sodium. Consult your doctor or pharmacist with questions about OTC pain relievers.
When to See a Doctor?
If your neck hurts when you cough and you can’t find an at-home remedy that works, it may be time to see your doctor. Your doctor can utilize diagnostic instruments to determine the reason for the discomfort. Then you will receive treatment, so you cease the pain every time you cough. The treatment could include physiotherapy and injections, or you might just require an antibiotic to eradicate a virus. Talk to your doctor to find out what treatments you need for your neck pain.
Seek medical help If neck pain is:
- Spreads down arms or legs for days
- Comes with a persistent headache, numbness, weakness, tingling
- You can’t sleep because of the pain
How Can DrHouse Help You?
The doctors who practice online at DrHouse are able to provide you with a quick virtual consultation during which they will talk to you about the pain that you are experiencing when you cough. You can be given the appropriate treatment to help the problem, so be sure to download our app as soon as possible to get started.
Your signs and symptoms are consistent with a wide range of illnesses, including the common cold and bronchitis. Get medical help right away if home remedies don’t work, if the stiffness worsens, or if you have an accompanying fever. If you don’t feel better in a day or two, make an appointment with your doctor. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition in some cases. Make an appointment with your doctor straight away if any of these symptoms worry you.
- Reye’s syndrome. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reyes-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20377255
- Taziki MH, Behnampour N. A study of the etiology of referred otalgia. Iran J Otorhinolaryngol. 2012 Fall;24(69):171-6. PMID: 24303405; PMCID: PMC3846197.
- Alex P. Michael, Neck Pain. American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). Available from: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Neck-Pain
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