It can be concerning when your neck burns, especially if the burning radiates other places like the shoulders and the arms. There are many causes of this burning and even neck pain. Depending on what is causing it, the burning and pain can vary. You may feel it deep in your neck near your spine or on the skin. You may not remember what you did to cause it or you may feel like there is something wrong with your neck. Mild burning may be treatable at home, but if it is severe, you may need to see your doctor for evaluation.
Why Do You Have That Burning Sensation in Neck?
Your burning sensation may or may not be serious. This is a list of possible causes, but only your doctor can determine exactly why it is happening. The causes can include:
1. You Slept Wrong
One of the main causes of a burning sensation in your neck is sleeping wrong or using pillows that are too flat or hard. If you are a heavy sleeper, you may unconsciously roll into a position that may cramp your neck. Sleeping wrong can cause the tiny nerves in your neck to become pinched, resulting in a burning sensation. The wrong pillows may give your neck too little support if they are flat, or bend your neck into an unnatural upward position if they are too hard. Sleeping on two pillows can often cause neck issues.
Other Symptoms: Waking up feeling unrested, headaches, unable to turn head to one or both sides, neck pain, and shoulder pain
2. Bad Posture
If you stand for work or even spend a lot of time on your feet at home, you may be standing incorrectly and putting strain on your neck. Tilting your head to the front, keeping your head turned while doing work, or looking up for long periods can all strain your neck muscles.
Other activities where poor posture can cause a burning sensation in neck are
- Watching TV
- Computer use
- Working in your garden
- Pushing or pulling heavy objects
- Cradling your phone on your neck
- Watching things high up or in the sky
Other Symptoms: You may have neck pain, dizziness, headaches, and numbness to the area.
3. Repetitive Motion Injuries
Things you normally do every day may be causing the burning feeling in your neck. You may not notice that it is causing you problems at first, but over time doing the same movements with your neck over and over will start to manifest issues. You may be looking from a computer screen down to a paper on your desk, turning your head frequently to either side to inspect something, or even driving a vehicle or operating machinery that requires you to turn your head often. The vertebrae in the neck are very tiny and can suffer from repeated turning of your head.
Other Symptoms: Crackling sound when you turn your head, stabbing pain with movement, hot feeling to the touch in one area, and chronic headaches on the affected side
4. Cervical Disk Disease
Disease in the neck vertebrae usually occur over an extended length of time. The disks that cushion the vertebrae break down with age and use causing the bones to rub together and nerve damage. One of the first symptoms of nerve damage is a burning sensation in neck, pain in neck and shoulders, and weakness. Cervical disk disease is also worsened by years of repetitive motions in the neck area. Disk disease can also run in families.
Other Symptoms: Numbness in the neck area, bulging disk on MRI, inability to turn the head to one side or the other, tingling in the hands and fingers
If your neck suffers a quick back and forth or side to side impact or movement, you could be suffering from whiplash. This condition occurs in car accidents, falls, blunt body impact with another person or heavy object, and sudden stops. This condition can be serious and must be evaluated and treated by a doctor. The sudden impact causes the vertebrae to move out and slip, then go back into place. This can leave nerves pinched and vertebrae may not reset properly after the impact.
Other Symptoms: Severe neck stiffness, pain on one or both sides of neck, severe headache, dizziness, ringing in ears, shoulder pain, jaw pain, and weakness in the arms
Is It Serious? What Should You Do?
Anything can cause a burning sensation in neck, from just sleeping wrong to a full-fledged traumatic accident. If you receive blunt trauma or make fast and hard movement of the neck, there is a possibility for a serious injury. You should always have neck injuries evaluated by a doctor to rule out anything serious. If so, your doctor will recommend treatment to keep your spinal area safe during healing. You may need your neck immobilized and physical therapy to recover.
If you just slept wrong, or are using poor posture in your daily life you can try these few things at home:
- Hold an ice pack on your neck for 10 to 15 minutes, and then remove. Make sure you cover the ice pack with a towel. This can help relieve the burning feeling in your neck that is caused by inflammation.
- Get a good pillow. You should be replacing the pillows on your bed when they become flattened and can no longer be fluffed.
- Stop work and change positions. Take breaks when you’re working. Stop work every two hours if your workplace allows, get up and stretch, walk around, and change your position.
- Try an over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory. For relief of minor pain, burning, and injuries, you can ask your doctor if you would be okay with just a mild over-the-counter medication.
- Hold objects with your hand, not your neck. This habit may not even be a conscious one. Things like holding the phone between your neck and ear, holding objects between your chin and chest, even new mom’s cradling a baby on their shoulder. Shift from using your neck, chest and shoulders to hold things with your hands instead.