Chronic Neck Pain
(Neck Pain, Chronic)
Chronic neck pain is pain that occurs over a long period of time. It usually lasts more than three months. The pain can range from mild to severe.
Contact your doctor if you have experienced neck pain over a period of time without relief.
Chronic neck pain can be caused by:
Chronic neck pain may also cause you to have neck stiffness. Pain may be worse when moving your neck. The pain can be any type of pain including burning, sharp, dull, tingling. The pain may spread to other parts of the body such as the shoulders and arms.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist. Orthopedists specialize in bones and joints. A neurologist or neurosurgeon specializes in the nerves and spinal cord.
Your doctor may need to see images of your spine. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need to measure how well the nerves and muscles in your neck are working. This can be done using electromyography (EMG).
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:
Activity and Exercise
You may be able to decrease 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 different medicines that may be used the help you manage your neck pain.
There are other treatments that might be helpful for neck pain.
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 disk in your neck, surgery will remove the disk.
To help reduce your chance of getting neck pain, take the following steps:
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Physical Therapy Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Langevin P, Lowcock J, Weber J, Nolan M, Gross AR, Peloso PM, Roberts J, Graham N, Goldsmith CH, Burnie SJ, Haines T; Cervical Overview Group. Botulinum toxin intramuscular injections for neck pain: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Rheumatol. 2011;38(2):203-214.
Misailidou V, Malliou P, et al. Assessment of patients with neck pain: a review of definitions, selection criteria, and measurement tools. J Chiropr Med. 2010 Jun;9(2):49-59.
Neck pain. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
Neck pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
Neck pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
What a pain in the neck! American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation website. Available at:
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12/17/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
11/11/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Kroeling P, Gross A, et al. Electrotherapy for neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 26;8.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD