Living with Neck Pain
In most cases, neck pain will go away if you treat it promptly. It is important to see a doctor to identify the source of the pain. You can also help to prevent neck pain by:
- Maintaining good posture
- Exercising to keep the muscles of the neck strong
- Massaging the neck frequently to keep the muscles loose
- Losing weight
- Wearing a seatbelt to help prevent neck whiplash in an auto accident
- Adjusting sleep position to make sure that your head is properly supported
- Changing sitting positions frequently
- Making sure the top of your computer screen is at eye level
Getting a Second Opinion about Neck Pain
If the treatment you are receiving is not relieving your neck pain, please consider seeking a second opinion.
Additional Neck Pain Resources
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
History and Physical Examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about your daily activities and previous injuries and illnesses. He or she will also test your range of motion and feel the area that is painful to locate the source.
X-rays. An x-ray examination helps to show breaks or defects in the bones of the neck.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. A CT scan shows damage to muscles and other soft tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An MRI test shows three-dimensional pictures of the muscles and other soft tissues.
Electromyogram (EMG). An EMG test records the electrical activity in the muscles. It detects any nerve damage that may be causing back pain.
Myelogram. A myelogram uses an injection of liquid dye into the spinal column. The dye allows doctors to see the spine and the nerves. The test reveals bulging disks, tumors or bone spurs that may be putting pressure on the nerves of the neck.
Your primary care doctor will treat your neck pain conservatively. Conservative treatments include:
- Ice packs to control swelling
- Medications to reduce inflammation and control pain
- Exercise to strengthen the neck muscles
- A cervical collar to provide neck support
Rarely, neck pain requires surgery. Surgical approaches may include:
Discectomy. A discectomy is the removal of a portion of the disc that has bulged, or herniated, between the vertebrae. The bulge can put pressure on the nerves and cause pain.
Spinal Decompression. Spinal decompression is used to relieve pressure on the nerves caused by narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal. The procedure removes bone and soft tissue that create the pressure.
Unlike other places, University of Colorado Hospital offers each patient a wide array of skilled providers. They collaborate with you - and each other - to arrive at the most advanced diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation possible for patients with back and neck pain.
Our Back Pain and Neck Pain Specialists
- Family practitioner – a doctor who provides medical care to individuals and families.
- Orthopedic surgeon – a doctor who treats injuries and diseases of the bones, joints and muscles.
- Neurosurgeon – a doctor who performs surgical procedures on the nervous system.
- Occupational therapist – a specialist who works with patients to improve their ability to perform everyday activities.
- Physiatrist – a doctor who diagnoses and rehabilitates physical injuries.
- Physical therapist – a specialist who treats diseases through exercise, massage, water, light and heat.
- Psychologist – a specialist who helps patients understand and manage pain.
- Clinical charge nurse – A registered nurse (RN) responsible for directing and coordinating patient care.
- Medical assistant – staff member who assists the RN in seeing patients during their doctor's visit.