Neck Pain - Primary Care Physician

This relates to a history, physical exam and treatment of neck pain by a healthcare provider.

This relates to a history, physical exam and treatment of neck pain by a healthcare provider.

Neck pain (cervicalgia) is frequently caused by everyday muscle strain or tension. A common term sometimes used to describe this type of neck pain is a "stiff neck." Other more serious causes of neck pain include:

  • Injury to the structures in the neck (muscles, nerves, vertebrae or vertebral discs)
  • Certain medical conditions (arthritis, muscle disorders or cancer)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column)
  • Infection

After performing a history and physical exam, a healthcare provider can recommend specific treatments for your neck pain. These may include:

  • Exercises to strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles
  • Education and training in self-care, including correct posture and body alignment
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications

Call 911 if your neck pain began after a fall or other injury and you have a sudden onset of paralysis, weakness, numbness or tingling in your arm or hand, chest discomfort or trouble breathing!

Neck pain is usually self-limited, meaning it will go away without specific treatment. In most cases, x-rays are not needed for uncomplicated neck pain. X-rays may be beneficial if the pain is severe or persistent, there are other concerning symptoms or there is a history of a recent injury. Some things you can do at home to decrease your neck pain include:

  • Applying heat or cold to the painful areas (whichever works best for you, but try cold for the first 48 to 72 hours)
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers as directed on the packaging or by your healthcare provider
  • Slowing down for a few days (try to get back to your normal activities as soon as possible)

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your neck pain gets worse or does not start to improve in a few days
  • You have symptoms of meningitis (fever, headache or your neck is so stiff that you cannot touch your chin to your chest)
  • You have swollen glands
  • Your neck pain began after a fall or other injury
  • You have weakness, numbness or tingling in your arm or hand

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have pain in your neck.

  • Bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations)
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter)
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is causing my neck pain?
  • Do I need tests? Why?
  • What are my treatment options? Are there any alternatives?
  • Are there any treatment risks?
  • When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
  • How can I prevent the pain from coming back?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Make sure you understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives, and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).


Also known as:

Stiff Neck
Sore Neck
Primary Care Visit for Neck Pain
Pain in Neck
Neck Pain - Primary Care Physician
Neck Pain
Doctor Visit for Neck Pain
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