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Neck Pain

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Topic Overview

Neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders. It can spread to your upper back or arms. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck.

Neck pain is common, especially in people older than 50.

Most neck pain is caused by activities that strain the neck. Slouching, painting a ceiling, or sleeping with your neck twisted are some things that can cause neck pain. These kinds of activities can lead to neck strain, a sprain, or a spasm of the neck muscles.

Neck pain can also be caused by an injury. A fall from a ladder or whiplash from a car accident can cause neck pain. Some less common medical problems can also lead to neck pain, such as:

You may feel a knot, stiffness, or severe pain in your neck. The pain may spread to your shoulders, upper back, or arms. You may get a headache. You may not be able to move or turn your head and neck easily. If there is pressure on a spinal nerve root, you might have pain that shoots down your arm. You may also have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm.

If your neck pain is long-lasting (chronic), you may have trouble coping with daily life. Common side effects of chronic pain include fatigue, depression, and anxiety.

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may also ask about any injuries, illnesses, or activities that may be causing your neck pain.

During the physical exam, your doctor will check how well you can move your neck. He or she will also look for tenderness or numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands.

If your pain started after an injury, or if it doesn't improve after a few weeks, your doctor may want to do more tests. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, an MRI scan, or a CT scan can show the neck muscles and tissues. These tests may be done to check the neck bones, spinal discs, spinal nerve roots, and spinal cord camera.gif.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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