What is Involved in Making a Diagnosis of Neck Pain?

Generally, no diagnosis of neck pain is needed since patients are the only ones who can determine whether or not they feel pain. There is no test for pain in particular, although patients can describe the sensations they are feeling and doctors can run tests to determine the underlying cause. A variety of conditions can cause neck pain.

Pain is a rather generic term which can mean a variety of different sensations, although all are characterized by discomfort, whether mild or moderate. It may be dull, sharp, intense, numb, tingling, stabbing, or cause a feeling of heat. Pain may also be temporary or chronic, depending on the condition. Patients who visit a doctor are not generally looking for a diagnosis of neck pain, but for the cause of their discomfort. Most people do not need someone else to tell them that they are in pain.

Only when the cause of pain is found can proper pain management be implemented. Neck pain may be caused by a pulled muscle, torn ligament, herniated disc, arthritis, or whiplash. A cause for the diagnosis of neck pain is determined by running a variety of tests, usually X-rays and physically feeling around the neck.


Treatment options will vary based on the condition. Medication is often given to alleviate pain and discomfort. Sometimes additional treatments will be needed, such as neck brace or surgery. Avoiding certain activities, such as most sports, is also usually required. Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, can be managed with the proper combination of medication and other therapies such as supplements and holistic approaches.

The only time a doctor may make a diagnosis of neck pain alone is if all possible causes of discomfort have been ruled out. This is highly rare and unlikely to occur, and many times the doctor rules that the pain is psychological. Stress and anxiety can make muscle stiffness or pain worse and more pronounced. Additionally, those who suffer from hypochondria can actually cause symptoms by obsessively worrying about having them.

Psychological causes can generally be treated with a combination of antidepressant medications and therapy. Most times, if there is no physical cause, once the mind is not longer focused on neck pain, the pain ceases to exist. Anxiety may eventually refocus on another area of the body if not properly controlled.



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