- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A technique that uses strong magnets and a computer to produce very detailed pictures of the soft tissues in the neck.
- Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan): A specialized x&ray study that takes detailed pictures of the bones in the neck.
- Myelogram: An x–ray done after injection of a dye to highlight the spinal cord and the nerves.
- Electromyelogram and Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG/NCS): A test that measures the electrical activity of the muscles and shows how the nerves and muscles have been working together, and whether or not the nerves are damaged.
Treatment will vary with the cause. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen are likely to be prescribed, and possibly, muscle&relaxing drugs, depending on the nature of the problem. If bacterial infection is suspected, the doctor will also prescribe antibiotics, which must be taken for the entire time period the doctor advises.
Injuries are usually treated with ice or cold compresses applied several times a day for only 10 to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two, followed by warm compresses to promote healing once the swelling has gone down. More serious injuries are treated with immobilization, tractions, and manipulation. Surgery is sometimes done to repair slipped discs.
Prevention of Neck Pain
The following measures might be helpful in preventing neck pain and injury:
- Avoiding activities that strain the neck muscles.
- Avoiding sudden, vigorous exercise programs, strengthening the muscles gradually instead.
- Warming up the muscles before exercising or playing sports.
- Wearing protective equipment when playing sports.
- Sleeping on a firm mattress with a thin pillow or no pillow at all.
- Avoiding sleeping on the stomach.
- Wearing seat belts and driving cautiously and defensively (to prevent whiplash).
- Taking frequent rest breaks or changing position when doing tasks that require repetitive neck motions.
- Using good posture.
- Holding telephone receivers with the hand instead of between the neck and shoulder.
- Including adequate calcium in the diet.