Can Right Side Neck Pain Be Heart Related?

Neck pain is a common complaint that most people experience at some point in their lives. The cause is often obvious – poor posture, a strained muscle, or sleeping in an awkward position. However, sometimes neck pain can indicate an underlying medical condition, even something as serious as a heart problem. This is especially true if the pain is isolated to the right side of the neck.

How Might Right Side Neck Pain Relate to Your Heart?

There are a few ways that pain on the right side of the neck may signal a cardiovascular issue:

  • Referred pain from the heart – Angina (chest pain caused by lack of oxygen to the heart) can sometimes radiate up into the neck, usually on the right side. This is called referred pain, when pain from an internal organ is felt in another location. The vagus nerve, which runs from the brain into the heart, can carry pain signals up into the neck.
  • Carotid artery dissection – A tear in the inner lining of the carotid artery in the neck can cause pain on the right side. This restricts blood flow to the brain and increases risk of stroke. Trauma, certain medical conditions, and hyperextending the neck can damage the carotid artery.
  • Aneurysm – An aneurysm is a ballooning out of a weakened arterial wall. Aneurysms in the aorta (the major artery from the heart) or the arteries supplying the brain can potentially rupture and cause severe bleeding. The location of an aneurysm determines if neck pain occurs.
  • Blood clots – A blood clot that travels through the arteries and lodges in the neck can block blood flow. This is called an embolism and the resulting pain depends on the clot location.

Other Causes of Right Side Neck Pain

While heart issues may cause right neck pain, more frequently muscle strain or arthritis between the neck vertebrae leads to pain on one side. Pinched nerves along the right side of the cervical spine can also result in neck pain. Poor posture like having your head tilted to the side for long periods of time can trigger an ache as well. Sometimes even a mild blow to the neck may injure a muscle or nerve. Anxiety and stress commonly manifest as neck tension too.

Seeking Medical Care for Right Side Neck Pain

Pay attention to any other symptoms that accompany right sided neck pain, especially:

-Pain or numbness that radiates down one arm

-Shortness of breath

-Dizziness, confusion, slurred speech

-Chest pain

-Severe headache

-Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

Any of these additional symptoms warrant urgent medical evaluation. Neck pain that is sudden, severe, or accompanied by neurological changes could signal something like a stroke, aneurysm, or heart attack which all require emergency care.

Even if it’s mild, neck pain that persists for more than a week or interferes with daily activities deserves to be examined by a doctor. Diagnostic tools like x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or vascular ultrasounds help detect any underlying problems. Proper treatment depends on finding the source of the pain.

It’s not common, but sometimes pain isolated to the right side of the neck does indicate a serious heart issue. More frequently though, it results from pinched nerves or muscle strain. Pay attention to any other concerning symptoms that develop alongside neck pain. Seek prompt medical attention for sudden or debilitating right side neck pain to rule out dangerous cardiovascular or neurological causes. With an accurate diagnosis, even heart-related neck pain can be effectively managed.