What causes neck pain?

Neck pain can have many underlying causes, and sometimes it can be hard to isolate them. Minor cases of neck pain are most often caused by a muscle strain or ligament sprain and symptoms usually subside in a short period of time. However if pain continues or reoccurs, it may be an indication of a spine condition like arthritis or a herniated disc that is causing nerve compression in the cervical (upper) region of the spine.

If you are experiencing neck pain that has lasted longer than a few days or a week, contact your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime, learning more about the different spine conditions can help you become more involved in the diagnostic process and better get the help you need for lasting relief.

How spine conditions cause neck pain

The cervical spine is delicately constructed to allow for fine movements while being strong enough to support the head and protect the spinal cord. Factors like age, injury, posture and genetics can all lead to the degeneration of the moving parts of the spine, such as the joints and discs. Degenerative discs and joints are not always painful by themselves, but they can constrict the spinal canal and nerve-root exits, leading to painful nerve compression. Spine conditions that can cause neck pain include:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bone spurs

Medical professionals attempt to diagnose neck pain causes using a systematic approach that can include a physical exam, X-rays, MRI, a neurological exam, blood testing, bone scans, electromyography (EMG), discogram or myelogram.

Treatment options for neck pain

For most cases of neck pain, a doctor will typically recommend a course of conservative treatment options. This may include rest, ice packs, heating pads, physical therapy, over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine and anti-inflammatory injections.

If the conservative approach does little to improve symptoms, your physician might suggest surgery as an option. As an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ can access the spine with a less than 1-inch incision, treating neck pain with an outpatient procedure.

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.