Chronic Neck Pain
(Neck Pain, Chronic)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Chronic neck pain is pain in the neck over a long period of time. It can last more than 3 months. The pain can range from mild to severe.
A number of problems can cause chronic neck pain, such as problems with the muscles, nerves, or bones.
Here are some factors that may increase your risk:
You may have neck stiffness. Pain may be worse when moving your neck. The pain can be any type of pain, such as burning, sharp, dull, and tingling. The pain may spread to other parts of the body such as the head, shoulders, and arms.
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist. Orthopedists help people with their bones and joints. A neurologist or neurosurgeon helps people with their nerves and spinal cord.
Pictures of your spine may be needed. This can be done with:
Your nerves and muscles may need to be tested. This can be done using electromyography (EMG).
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Here are some options:
Activity and Exercise
You may be able to lower 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 kinds of medicine that may be used to help your neck pain.
Here are some other ways to treat 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 disc in your neck, surgery will remove the damaged part of the disc.
To help reduce your chance of neck pain:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Binder A. Neck pain. Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(11):117-118.
Cervical radicular pain and radiculopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated April 20, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2018.
Cohen SP. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of neck pain. Mayo Clin Proc.2015;90(2):284-299.
Langevin P, Lowcock J, Weber J, et al. Botulinum toxin intramuscular injections for neck pain: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Rheumatol. 2011;38(2):203-214.
Misailidou V, Malliou P, Beneka A, Karagiannidis A, Godolias G. Assessment of patients with neck pain: a review of definitions, selection criteria, and measurement tools. J Chiropr Med. 2010;9(2):49-59.
Neck pain. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 11, 2018.
Neck pain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 2013. Accessed June 11, 2018.
12/17/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Andersen LL, Christensen KB, Holtermann A, et al. Effect of physical exercise interventions on musculoskeletal pain in all body regions among office workers: a one-year randomized controlled trial. Man Ther. 2010;15(1):100-104.
11/11/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Kroeling P, Gross A, Graham N, et al. Electrotherapy for neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;8:CD004251.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 9/3/2015
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.