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Understanding Your Neck Pain

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Understanding Your Neck Pain

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • May 14, 2019

Your cervical spine, or your neck, is a complex portion of your body with many working parts that play a big role in supporting your head and allowing movement. Its intricate parts coupled with the high demands you place on your neck, it’s no wonder that the area is at risk for pain. In fact, one of the most complaints that physicians like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC hears is related to the cervical spine.

The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, discs between each one, nerve roots, the spinal cord, blood vessels, muscles, and ligaments. These elements work together to allow movement of your head in various directions. When something happens that impacts any part of the cervical spine, the resulting neck pain can be debilitating.

Many things may trigger neck pain. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Trauma: accidents can result in whiplash, which is a term for over-extending the neck when it is suddenly and forcefully moved outside its normal range of motion. The neck’s muscles and ligaments are typically damaged with this type of trauma.
  • Osteoarthritis: usually brought on by age, osteoarthritis is a progressive cartilage deterioration that negatively affects the joints.
  • Degenerative disc disease: aging may dehydrate the discs between your vertebrae, making them bulge or herniate, which can lead to pain or tingling.
  • Spinal stenosis: narrowing of the neural passages in the body can compress nerves and cause pain or numbness in the neck or other areas of the body.
  • Disease: neck pain may sometimes be related to serious conditions like infections, tumors, spinal cord compression, fractures and more.
  • General: things like bad posture or obesity can make your spine off-balance and place added pressure on your neck. Tight muscles due to tension or stress often also cause neck pain.


A proper diagnosis from an experienced professional like NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center is key to obtaining the best treatment plan for your neck pain. To determine the spinal condition causing your pain, the doctor will take your medical history and ask questions to help identify your symptoms, timeline, activity levels, and more. A physical examination will be performed and tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be recommended.


Treating neck pain depends on its cause and severity. In some cases, solutions like stretches, over-the-counter pain remedies, and ice or heat treatments may be enough to get you back to your normal routines. Other treatments that might be advised are prescription pain medication, muscle relaxants, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, yoga, or acupuncture. In more severe cases or if your pain doesn’t go away with conservative treatments, surgery might be the best option. Surgery is most often performed with trauma, spinal instability, or degenerative disc disease. NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer typically recommends surgery for cervical spine issues as a last resort, but in some cases it is the best way to get you back to living your life pain-free.

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