Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures in the neck. These include the muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), and the disks between the bones.
Pain - neck; Neck stiffness; Cervicalgia; Whiplash
When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving it, especially turning to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck.
If neck pain involves compression of your nerves, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere.
A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Most often, everyday activities are to blame. Such activities include:
Accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries, such as vertebral fractures, whiplash, blood vessel injury, and even paralysis.
Other causes include:
Treatment and self-care for your neck pain depend on what is causing the problem. You will need to learn:
For minor, common causes of neck pain:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Seek medical help right away if:
Call your health care provider if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and ask about your neck pain, including how often it occurs and how much it hurts.
Your doctor or nurse will probably not order any tests during the first visit, unless you have symptoms or a medical history that suggests a tumor, infection, fracture, or serious nerve disorder. In that case, the following tests may be done:
If the pain is due to muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, your health care provider may prescribe a muscle relaxant or a more powerful pain reliever. Over-the-counter medications often work as well as prescription drugs. If there is nerve damage, your health care provider may refer you to a neurologist or neurosurgeon for consultation.
Alexander EP. History, physical examination, and differential diagnosis of neck pain. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. Aug 2011; 22(3): 383-93, vii.
Cheng JS, McGirt MJ, Degin C. Neck pain. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al., eds. Kelly's Textbook of Rheumotology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 45.
Devereaux MW. Neck pain. Med Clin North Am. 2009;93:273-284.
Review Date: 3/5/2015
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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