What is neck pain?
The neck is located between the head and the shoulders. Because of its location and range-of-motion, it is often left unprotected and subject to injury.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain can result from many different causes — from injury, to age-related disorders, or inflammatory disease. Causes of neck pain and problems may include the following:
- Injury (damage to the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments)
- Herniated cervical disk
- Arthritis (for example, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)
- Cervical disk degeneration
- Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones
How is neck pain diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for neck pain may include the following:
- Blood tests. These tests can help determine the diagnosis of inflammatory disease.
- X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of bones onto film.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease of internal structures within our joints, or in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
- Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
- Electromyogram (EMG). A test to evaluate nerve function.
Treatment for neck pain
Specific treatment for neck pain will be determined by your doctor based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Your diagnosis
- Extent of the condition
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Medication (to reduce inflammation)
- Medication (to control pain)
- Physical therapy
- Neck brace or immobilization