Neck pain — overview

Neck pain can have a wide range of causes, but the most common include aging and traumatic or repetitive injury. It can last anywhere from a few days to chronic, debilitating pain that disrupts your life for years. Neck pain can impact your quality of life, making it hard to drive, work in the yard or get a good night’s sleep.

If serious neck pain is affecting you or someone you love, learning about some of the causes and the full range of treatment options available is an important step in getting back to normal activity. This knowledge can help you work with a doctor to develop a treatment plan with the best chance of lasting relief.

Causes of neck pain

Neck pain is often caused by an injury or accident, aging or daily strains and can originate in the muscles or from a condition in the cervical (upper) region of the spine. In an automobile accident, whiplash is a common occurrence that can lead to a patient’s neck pain. Whiplash is caused when the head is forced forward and backward rapidly. The neck is not designed for this increase in motion, which will often lead to a traumatic injury in the cervical spine. Neck pain is also very commonly attributed to degenerative changes associated with aging.

Here are some spine conditions caused by either aging or injury that can lead to neck pain:

  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis

If you are experiencing neck pain that has not improved after a few days of rest, ice and over-the-counter medication, you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis and more involved treatment plan.

Neck pain treatment options

Upon receiving a diagnosis, neck pain relief can be accomplished through a course of doctor-recommended conservative treatment options. This can include physical therapy, lifestyle changes like posture improvement or quitting smoking, exercise and epidural steroid injection. Surgery usually becomes an option if weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring enough improvement in neck pain.

Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to the risks and difficulties of traditional open neck procedures with our minimally invasive spine surgery, including foraminotomy, laminotomy, discectomy and facet thermal ablation. Because our surgeons are able to access the spine with a less than 1-inch incision, important muscles are spared and patients can enjoy a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication when compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more, visit our spine surgeons page and our frequently asked questions page. To find out if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures, contact us for a no-cost MRI review.*