Neck pain, also called cervical pain, is a common medical condition.  It may be due to bad posture such as leaning or hunching.  Osteoporosis is a common cause of neck pain.  Rarely, it can be a symptom of a serious condition.

Risk factors of neck pain includes:

  • Injury from contact sports
  • Motor-vehicle accidents
  • Bull or bronco horse riding

Prevention involves the strengthening of the muscles around the neck through exercise or neck bracing.

What Causes Neck Pain?

Causes of neck pain include:

  • Abnormalities in the bone or joints: due to osteoartritis
  • Trauma: due to whiplash injury
  • Poor posture
  • Degenerative diseases: such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis
  • Tumors
  • Muscle strain: overuse of the muscle in the neck area

Neck pain may:

  • Spread to the upper back, shoulders, or arms.
  • Be worse with movement.
  • Make your neck stiff or tender.
  • Cause headaches. These are common and may last for months.

Nerve-related symptoms caused by pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand.
  • A burning feeling when you are touched on the skin of the arm or hand.
  • A pain that feels like a shock and extends into your arm or hand.
  • Leg numbness or weakness, and loss of the ability to control urination (bladder control) or bowel movements. This can occur when there is pressure on or injury to the spinal cord.


Initial testing

Neck pain is usually evaluated with a medical history and physical exam. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, injuries or illnesses, any previous treatment, and habits and activities that may be causing your neck pain. During the physical exam, your doctor will check your neck’s range of motion and check for pain caused by movement. He or she will look for areas of tenderness and any nerve-related changes, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm or hand.

Blood tests may be done to check for an illness or infection.

Imaging tests

 This helps the doctor to identify and get a picture of the cause of your neck pain.

  • X-rays. Reveals areas in the neck where nerves or spinal cords may be pinched by bone spurs or other degenerative disease.
  • CT scan. Shows a detailed cross-sectional views of the internal structures of the neck.
  • MRI. This creates a detailed image of the bones and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and its nerves.

Other tests:

  • Electromyography. This determines whether the nerves are functioning properly by measuring the speed of nerve conduction.



Medicines can relieve neck pain and reduce inflammation of the soft tissues. Pain relief will allow you to move your neck gently, so you can begin easy exercises and start the healing process.

Nonprescription pain relievers include:

  • Creams or gels, such as Bengay, that are rubbed into the neck.
  • Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, which reduces pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen (such as Advil) or naproxen (such as Aleve), that can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Prescription pain relievers include:

  • Muscle relaxants, which are used to treat severe neck pain and spasms when neck pain begins (acute neck pain).
  • Narcotic pain relievers, which are used to treat severe short-term (acute) neck pain.
  • Antidepressants, which are used to treat long-lasting (chronic) pain.
  • Corticosteroid injections. These are rarely used for neck pain. But they may be tried if you also have symptoms such as pain or numbness in your arm that suggests a nerve root is pinched or irritated (radiculopathy).


  • Physical therapy. A therapist can teach you correct posture, alignment and neck exercises, and uses different methods to ease pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes send tiny electrical impulses to relieve pain.
  • Traction. This therapy uses weights, pulleys or an air bladder, provide relief to some neck pain, especially those caused by nerve root irritation.
  • Short-term immobilization. A soft collar supports neck and may relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures of the neck.

Surgical intervention

  • Steroid injection. This is used to help ease pain.
  • Surgery. This is a rare treatment option and is only used for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.

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