Chronic neck pain is pain in the neck over a long period of time. It can last more than 3 months. The pain can range from mild to severe.
A number of problems can cause chronic neck pain, such as problems with the muscles, nerves, or bones.
Here are some factors that may increase your risk:
You may have neck stiffness. Pain may be worse when moving your neck. The pain can be any type of pain, such as burning, sharp, dull, and tingling. The pain may spread to other parts of the body such as the head, shoulders, and arms.
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. Orthopedists help people with their bones and joints. A neurologist or neurosurgeon helps people with their nerves and spinal cord.
Pictures of your spine may be needed. This can be done with:
Your nerves and muscles may need to be tested. This can be done using electromyography (EMG).
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Here are some options:
Activity and Exercise
You may be able to lower 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 kinds of medicine that may be used to help your neck pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—to treat the pain and reduce inflammation
- Acetaminophen—to treat pain
- Certain antidepressant medicines—sometimes used for neck pain
- Certain antiseizure medicines
- Corticosteroid injection—to treat the pain and reduce inflammation caused by disc disease
Here are some other ways to treat neck pain:
- Low-level laser therapy— a light source is directed on the painful area
- Electrotherapy treatments, such as repetitive magnetic stimulation, and nerve and muscle stimulation
- Chiropractic care
- Intermittent traction (pulling on the neck)
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:
- Maintain good posture.
- Take breaks from activities that do not involve movement, such as driving or working at a desk.
- Do not sleep with too many pillows.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Make sure your desk chair and keyboard are at proper heights.
- Do not cradle a phone in your neck.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
- Review Date: 06/2018 -
- Update Date: 09/03/2015 -