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General Neck Pain

What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures of the neck, including muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), joints, and the discs between the bones.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

At UTHealth Neurosciences, we first investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting.

When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care plan. While you are with us, you can expect expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Causes of Neck Pain

A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension resulting from everyday activities, such as bending over a desk for hours, poor posture while watching TV or reading, positioning your computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, twisting and turning your neck in a jarring manner while exercising, or lifting objects too quickly or with poor posture. Accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries, such as vertebral fractures, whiplash, blood vessel injury, and even paralysis.

More serious causes of neck pain are cervical spondylosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, cervical radiculopathy, small spine fractures caused by osteoporosis, cervical stenosis, or infections such as osteomyelitis, septic discitis, or meningitis.

Signs of Neck Pain and Diagnosis

General neck pain includes stiffness or difficulty turning your head; pain that radiates through the shoulders or arms; tingling, weakness, or numbness caused by compression of nerves; difficulty lifting or gripping objects; headache; difficulty swallowing; and dizziness.

See your doctor if symptoms last more than a week; if you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand; if your neck pain was caused by a fall or injury; if you have swollen glands or a lump in your neck; if your pain is so severe that you can’t get comfortable; or if you have trouble walking and balancing.

Our spine specialists diagnose neck pain with a medical history, physical examination to detect tenderness and evaluate range of motion, X-ray, MRI, CT scan, bone scan, or electromyography.


Treatment is based on the cause of the pain. For minor causes of neck pain, your physician may recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, apply ice to the painful area for the first 48 to 72 hours, and then use heat afterward. Stop normal physical activity for a few days, and do slow range-of-motion exercises, moving your head up and down and from side to side. Massage the sore areas, and try sleeping on a firm mattress with a pillow that supports your neck.

Your physician may also recommend physical therapy, or corticosteroid or anesthetic injections administered by an interventional pain management specialist.

The UTHealth Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from radiculopathy, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, peripheral nerve disorders, spinal cord injury, or other trauma benefit from our collaborative expertise in managing spine disorders. Before recommending surgery, your physician team will investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, interventional pain management, physical therapy, and watchful waiting when appropriate.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

Contact Us

At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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