Definition

Chronic neck pain can last more than three months. It can range from mild to severe.

Nerve Pain in Neck
Neck pain

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Chronic neck pain may be caused from many things, such as problems with the muscles, nerves, or bones.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Pain that may be worse with movement
  • Burning, sharp, dull, or tingling pain
  • Pain that may spread to other parts of the body, such as the head, shoulders, and arms

Muscles of the Neck
Neck Muscles

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

The doctor may ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your neck. You may need to see a doctor who treats bones and joints. Or, you may need to see one who treats nerves and spinal cord problems.

Pictures of your spine may be needed. This can be done with:

Your nerves and muscles may need to be tested. This can be done with electromyography (EMG).

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the cause of the pain and how severe it is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:

  • Physical therapy and regular exercise to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • Supportive care, such as rest, ice, a compression bandage, and raising the finger to ease pain and swelling
  • Therapeutic procedures, such as low-level laser therapy and electrotherapy treatments
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as:

Some people may need surgery. The type of surgery used will depend on the cause of the pain.

Prevention

To lower the risk of neck pain:

  • Maintain good posture.
  • Take breaks from activities that do not involve movement, such as driving or working at a desk.
  • Do not sleep with too many pillows.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Make sure your desk chair and keyboard are at proper heights.
  • Do not cradle a phone in your neck.
RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://whenithurtstomove.org

REFERENCES:

Cervical radicular pain and radiculopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cervical-radicular-pain-and-radiculopathy. Accessed October 14, 2020.

Childress MA, Becker BA. Nonoperative Management of Cervical Radiculopathy. Am Fam Physician. 2016 May 1;93(9):746-754.

Cohen SP. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. Mayo Clin Proc.2015;90(2):284-299.

Neck pain. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/neck-pain.html. Accessed October 14, 2020.

Neck pain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00231. Accessed October 14, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 10/14/2020