Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout
About Your Diagnosis
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 nerves.

Living With Your Diagnosis
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.

Management 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 rash.

The DOs
• Take your medications as prescribed.
• Call your doctor if you are experiencing side effects from medications.
• Practice good posture when sitting and standing.
• Ask your doctor about the use of a cervical pillow.
• Perform neck exercises every day.

The DON’Ts
• Do not wait to see whether a possible side effect of medication goes away on its own.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you experience side effects of medications.
• If you continue to have neck pain or headaches.
• If you have numbness or tingling in your arms.
• If you need a referral to a physical therapist.