Dr. M.J. Bazos,
The neck is made up of the
vertebrae (neck bones), spinal cord (which contains the nerves), disks between
the vertebrae, and the surrounding soft tissue such as the muscles and
ligaments. The vertebrae, or bony part of the spine, protects the spinal cord.
Neck pain may be caused by an injury or disease that affects this area. Neck
pain commonly occurs after one lies in an uncomfortable position for a prolonged
period or as the result of poor posture. It may occur in association with
diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis,
and fibromyalgia. Neck pain may result from an injury to the neck. Stress which
causes increased muscle tension may worsen neck pain. A physician diagnoses neck
pain by taking a medical history, performing a physical examination, and
possibly ordering radiographs (x-rays). The physician may order blood tests to
determine whether the neck pain is due to diseases that may cause similar
symptoms. Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a bone
scan may be performed if the physician needs a clearer picture of the bones,
nerves, disks between the vertebrae, and other soft tissue. Sometimes an
electromyogram (EMG), which helps identify muscle and nerve problems, may be
obtained if the doctor believes the neck problem may be causing numbness or
tingling in the arms due to pressure on the
Living With Your
You may experience difficulty
looking from side to side, driving, and reading. Sometimes the pain may keep you
awake at night. Neck pain can cause headaches. If the neck pain lasts for
months, it may affect your ability to do your job.
of neck pain depends on the cause of the pain. If the pain is due to an injury,
your physician may recommend the use of heat or ice on the affected area.
Sometimes the physician may prescribe acetaminophen or nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to decrease the pain. If the pain is
particularly severe, stronger narcotic-containing pain medicines may be needed
for a short time. If you experience muscle spasms, your doctor may prescribe a
muscle relaxant. Physical therapy may be helpful to decrease the neck pain by
means of deep heat treatments, traction, or exercise. All medications have side
effects. NSAIDs may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, ulcers, headache, dizziness,
difficulty hearing, or a rash. Some side effects of muscle relaxants are
drowsiness, dizziness, and a
• Take your medications as
• Call your doctor if you
are experiencing side effects from
• Practice good posture
when sitting and standing.
• Ask your
doctor about the use of a cervical
• Perform neck exercises
• Do not wait to see
whether a possible side effect of medication goes away on its
When to Call Your
• If you experience side
effects of medications.
• If you
continue to have neck pain or
• If you have numbness or
tingling in your arms.
• If you need
a referral to a physical therapist.