Neck pain — symptoms, causes and treatment

Neck pain can often originate from the cervical spine, which is comprised of the seven vertebrae that form the top of the backbone and support the head. Pain in this area of the spine can also be chronic — lasting more than three months — and cause interference with daily activities. Less severe causes of neck pain, such as a strained muscle, will usually go away after a few days with light methods of treatment.

When seeking relief for severe neck pain, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Getting an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain is a critical first step in finding relief, allowing you and your physician to create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Symptoms and causes of neck pain

You should consider visiting your physician if you experience chronic neck pain symptoms such as:

  • Sharp pain
  • A dull ache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Radiating discomfort or tingling down the arms
  • Numbness in the arms or hands
  • Severe headaches

These symptoms could result from a number of spinal neck pain causes, including a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis (facet disease) or cervical spinal stenosis. These conditions cause symptoms when part of the spine — such as a disc or a bone spur — compresses or pinches the spinal cord or a nerve root. A telltale sign that your neck pain is related to a spine condition is the presence of radiating symptoms in the shoulders, arms and hands.

Diagnosing and treating neck pain

Since neck discomfort can have so many different causes — some of which are life-threatening — diagnosing neck pain can be a challenge for health care providers. For instance, if your neck pain is accompanied by fever, headache and vomiting — and you are unable to touch your chin to your chest — your physician may test you for an infection called meningitis which can be fatal.

Once meningitis and other dangerous conditions are ruled out, your physician will ask you a variety of questions about the duration and severity of your pain to help develop a diagnosis. You may also undergo X-rays, CT scans, an MRI, blood tests and nerve tests. These tests will help pinpoint the cause of your pain, allowing you and your physician to plan for neck pain treatment.

While nonsurgical treatment for neck pain can be effective, especially in the short term, sometimes surgery for neck pain is necessary to regain your former quality of life. At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive outpatient procedures as an alternative to highly invasive traditional open spine surgery. Our surgeons use a smaller incision, offering a shorter recovery time^ with less scarring than patients who undergo traditional open spine procedures.

To learn if you’re a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, contact our Care Team today for a no-cost MRI review.*