Neck Pain and Problems

What is neck pain?

A picture of an x-ray of the head
X-ray of the Head

The neck is located between the head and the shoulders. Because of its location and range-of-motion, it is often left unprotected and subject to injury.

What causes neck pain?

Neck pain can result from many different causes - from injury to inflammatory disease. Causes of neck pain and problems may include the following:

  • injury (damage to the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments)
  • herniated cervical disk
  • arthritis (i.e., osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • cervical disk degeneration 
  • congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones
  • tumors

How is neck pain diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for neck pain may include the following:

  • blood tests
  • x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
  • computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
  • myelogram - a procedure that uses dye injected into the spinal canal to make the structure clearly visible on x-rays.
  • electromyogram (EMG) - a test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

Treatment for neck pain:

Specific treatment for neck pain will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • medication (to reduce inflammation)
  • medication (to control pain)
  • rest
  • physical therapy
  • neck brace or immobilization
  • exercise
  • surgery

Learn More About Sharp
Sharp HealthCare is San Diego's health care leader with seven hospitals, two medical groups and a health plan. Learn more about our San Diego hospitals, choose a Sharp-affiliated San Diego doctor or browse our comprehensive medical services.