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What is causing my neck pain? Steps to diagnosing the cause of your neck pain.

by | Jan 26, 2022 | Neck & Back Injuries, Neck Injuries, Neck Physical Therapy | 0 comments

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Diagnosing the cause of one’s neck pain is no easy task. There are many steps that go into the accurate assessment of the root causes of one’s neck pain, stiffness, and other related symptoms. In most cases the assessment of one’s neck pain does not require complicated and expensive testing as a thorough clinical exam frequently provides all of the necessary information to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. 

After taking a thorough history regarding the nature of neck pain and events leading to the onset of the symptoms a physical exam often starts with observation of posture and other visually evident irregularities. Palpating the neck can provide a great deal of information about spasm, tenderness and alignment of the skeletal structure.

Assessment of neck range of motion also provides a great deal of meaningful data about tissue flexibility. Assessment of reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation in the regions of the neck and upper extremities is also common as impairments in these measures may be a sign of a pinched nerve. In instances where a physical exam cannot provide enough clues to the origin of somebody’s neck pain images can provide the missing piece to the puzzle. X-rays are simple and inexpensive ways to evaluate for neck pain arising from spine degeneration, fractures, and even certain tumors. A CT scan uses x-ray technology to provide a series of cross-section images and can reveal more subtle changes in bone and surrounding soft tissues of the neck. An MRI uses a strong magnetic field to provide another form of detailed cross-sectional images of the soft tissue in bones of the neck.  

When imaging fails to provide adequate information, diagnostic injections can be a useful next step. Monitoring a patient’s response to injections of a selected tissue such as a joint, nerve, or other tissue can be helpful in confirming the source of one’s neck pain. Other tests using electrodiagnostic’s can also help. Tests such as nerve conduction exams and EMGs can evaluate electrical activity of nerves and determine if there is any injury to the structures.


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