Chronic neck pain is pain in the neck over a long period of time. It usually lasts more than 3 months. The pain can range from mild to severe.
Chronic neck pain can be caused by a number of conditions, including problems with the muscles, nerves, or bones.
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic neck pain include having:
Chronic neck pain may also cause you to have neck stiffness. Pain may be worse when moving your neck. The pain can be any type of pain including burning, sharp, dull, and tingling. The pain may spread to other parts of the body such as the shoulders and arms.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. Orthopedists specialize in bones and joints. A neurologist or neurosurgeon specializes in the nerves and spinal cord.
Images of your spine may be needed. This can be done with:
Your nerve and muscle function may need to be measured. This can be done using electromyography (EMG).
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:
You may be able to decrease your pain by staying active and exercising. Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist. A therapist may work on strength exercises and stretching.
There are many different medications that may be used to help you manage your neck pain.
There are other treatments that might be helpful for neck pain.
Most cases of neck pain are treated medically. In some cases surgery is needed. The type of surgery will depend on the cause of pain. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your neck, surgery will remove the damaged part of the disc.
To help reduce your chance of neck pain:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Cervical radicular pain and radiculopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116531/Cervical-radicular-pain-and-radiculopathy. Updated September 16, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Langevin P, Lowcock J, Weber J, et al. Botulinum toxin intramuscular injections for neck pain: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Rheumatol. 2011;38(2):203-214.
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Neck pain. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/neck-pain.html. Accessed September 3, 2015.
Neck pain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00231. Updated December 2013. Accessed September 3, 2015
What a pain in the neck! American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation website. Available at: http://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/msk/spine/Pages/Prevent-Neck-Pain.aspx. Accessed September 3, 2015.
12/17/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116531/Cervical-radicular-pain-and-radiculopathy: Andersen LL, Christensen KB, Holtermann A, et al. Effect of physical exercise interventions on musculoskeletal pain in all body regions among office workers: a one-year randomized controlled trial. Man Ther. 2010;15(1):100-104.
11/11/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116531/Cervical-radicular-pain-and-radiculopathy: Kroeling P, Gross A, Graham N, et al. Electrotherapy for neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;8:CD004251.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.