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Neck Pain

What is neck pain?

The neck is located between the head and the shouders. Because of its location and range of motion, it's often left unprotected and vulnerable to injury.

Neck pain can result from many different causes—from age-related disorders, injury, or inflammatory disease. Causes of neck pain and problems may include:

  • Injury (damage to the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments)
  • Herniated cervical disk
  • Arthritis (for example, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Cervical disk degeneration
  • Congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones
  • Tumors

How is neck pain diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history, physical examination, and possible blood tests, diagnostic procedures for neck pain may include:

A picture of an x-ray of the head
X-ray of the Head
  • X-ray. A diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of bones on to film.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. This diagnostic imaging procedure uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, 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.
  • 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.
  • Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.
  • Electromyogram (EMG). A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

What is the treatment for neck pain?

Specific treatment for neck pain will be determined by your physician 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

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