Diagnosing neck pain

Diagnosing neck pain requires an honest conversation between you and your doctor. If you have chronic or acute neck pain and decide to seek medical care, be prepared to answer questions listed in the following article about the nature, location, severity and potential causes of your pain. These questions will help your doctor determine the potential cause, as well as the appropriate treatment for your pain.

Preparing for your initial appointment

Before you enter the exam room to meet your doctor, give some thought as to how you might answer these questions:

  • Where does it hurt? The location of the pain is an important first clue to diagnosing your neck pain.
  • Is the pain constant or occasional? Pain experienced for longer than three months is called chronic neck pain. Pain experienced suddenly is called acute neck pain.
  • When did the pain first occur? Pain with a longer duration could be a sign of a serious injury or long-term degeneration.
  • Is the pain sharp, radiating, dull aching, numbing or tingling? The type of pain is a clue to its origin.
  • Have you performed any recent activity that might have caused or contributed to the pain? Repetitive motion or poor posture can cause different kinds of neck pain.
  • Have you been injured recently? Whiplash, muscle strain or ligament sprain in the cervical spine region are common causes of neck pain.
  • Has anyone in your family experienced similar pain? Some causes of neck and back pain, such as degenerative disc disease, can be hereditary.
  • In addition to neck pain, are you also suffering from fever, headaches and vomiting? Are you having difficulty touching your chin to your chest? If so, it’s likely that your doctor will test you for a life-threatening infection called meningitis.

Tests used to diagnose neck pain

Your doctor can use your answers to these questions, along with a physical examination and a variety of tests, to reach a conclusion when diagnosing neck pain. Neck pain tests may include neurological tests such as an EMG, X-ray, bone scan, MRI, CT scan and a discogram. These tests allow your doctor to view the anatomy of your spine and make an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your neck pain. Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor can recommend the right treatment option for your needs.

Treating neck pain

Often, neck pain causes can be treated with pain medications or physical therapy, as well as other methods of conservative treatment. However, certain conditions may sometimes require surgery when all conservative treatment options have been exhausted and the pain still lingers. If you’ve been recommended for neck surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute for information about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain. Our procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication compared to traditional open neck and back surgery.^ Find out if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures today by reaching out to our dedicated team and requesting a free MRI review.*