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Neck Pain

Neck Pain and Problems

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 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 (i.e., osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis)

  • Cervical disk degeneration

  • Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones

  • Tumors

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

  • X-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease 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 both horizontal and vertical cross-sectional 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.

  • Myelogram - a procedure that uses dye injected into the spinal canal to make the structure clearly visible on x-rays.

  • Electromyogram (EMG) - a test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

Treatment for neck pain

Specific treatment for neck pain will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • 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)

  • Rest

  • Physical therapy

  • Neck brace or immobilization

  • Exercise

  • Surgery