“I am a bull. I am Taurus. My will is awful. If I like something, there is nothing else. I was a pain in the neck. I still am a pain in the neck.” — Elsa Peretti
This quote is just a fun way to get this post started. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an actor, Italian designer or athlete, being stricken with pain in your body is a terrible thing. Pain having to do with your neck is something no one wants to ever go through. How to diagnose neck pain has to be explained by how it is caused.
Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain can result from many different causes from injury to age-related disorders, or inflammatory disease. Causes of neck pain and problems may include the following:
- Injury (damage to the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments)
- Herniated cervical disk
- Arthritis (for example, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)
- Cervical disk degeneration
- Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones
- Tumors We would like to talk about how to diagnose neck pain, so you can identify it and then get treatment for it.
With these causes fresh in your mind we would like to discuss how to diagnose neck pain, so you have an idea what you can look for and what we or your doctor will be looking at on how to diagnose neck pain.
How is neck pain diagnosed?
When we begin to discuss how to diagnose neck pain, there are many factors that go into it. When you set up that first consultation, we’ll need to get your full medical history. Here we’ll ask questions to determine how to diagnose neck pain. These questions will include:
- When did the neck pain start?
- What activities did you recently do?
- What have you done for your neck pain?
- Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body (eg, down your arm)?
- Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?
The next step in how neck pain is diagnosed.
This questioning will then lead to a full physical examination to get a better understanding of where your body is at and how to diagnose neck pain. In the physical exam, your doctor will observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting any movement that causes you pain. Your doctor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment, and feel for muscle spasm. He or she will also check your shoulder area. Your spine specialist will test your reflexes, muscle strength, other nerve changes, and pain spread (eg, does the pain move down your arm and into your hand?)
What are the procedures in determining a diagnosis?
There are several diagnostic procedures we’ll perform when determining how to diagnose neck pain. These tests can consist of:
- Blood tests. These tests can help determine the diagnosis of inflammatory disease.
- X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of bones onto film.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease of internal structures within our joints, or in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
- Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
- Electromyogram (EMG). A test to evaluate nerve function.
- Bone scan: To help your doctor detect spinal problems such as osteoarthritis (spondylosis), spinal fractures, or infections. You will have a very small amount of radioactive material injected into a blood vessel. That will travel through your blood stream and be absorbed by your bones. More radioactive material will be absorbed by an area where there is abnormal activity. A scanner can detect the amount of radiation in all your bones and show the “hot spots” (the areas with more radioactive material) to help your doctor figure out where the problem is.
- Discogram: This is a procedure that confirms or denies the disc(s) as the source of your pain. You will have a harmless dye injected into one of your discs. If there’s a problem with your disc, like it’s herniated, the dye will leak out of the disc.
- Electromyograph (EMG): If it’s possible you have nerve damage, you may need this special test to measure how quickly your nerves respond. Usually, this test isn’t ordered right away because it may take several weeks before you notice that you’re having nerve problems
- Myelogram: To see if you have a spinal canal or spinal cord disorder, perhaps nerve compression causing pain and weakness. In this test, you’ll have a special dye injected into the area around your spinal cord and nerves. Then you’ll have an x-ray or a CT scan. The image will provide a detailed anatomic picture of your spine, especially of the bones, and your doctor will look at that to see if anything’s pressing on your nerves.
Pain and Performance Solutions and Neck Pain Diagnosis
The next statement will sound a bit cliché, but we need to say it, “We can help!” With any diagnosis, the first step is getting to know you. We can’t determine how to diagnose neck pain without understanding your history and what you’ve been through and where you are at. Setting up a consultation is the first step in your journey to recovery, feel free to contact us at (707) 636-4404 or fill out our online contact form.