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.
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
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.
Specific treatment for neck pain will be determined by your doctor 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)
Neck brace or immobilization