Cervical Spine Conditions

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 
  • 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. 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) 
  • Rest 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Neck brace or immobilization 
  • Exercise 
  • Surgery