Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may also ask about any injuries, illnesses, or activities that may be causing your neck pain, as well as any previous treatment you've had.
During the physical exam, your doctor will check how well you can move your neck. He or she will also look for tenderness or numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands.
You may have blood tests to check for an illness or infection.
Imaging, electromyogram, and nerve conduction tests
You may not need X-rays or other imaging tests. But if your pain started after an injury, or if it doesn't improve after a few weeks, your doctor may want to do more tests. Imaging tests can show the neck muscles and tissues. These tests may be done to check the neck bones, spinal discs, spinal nerve roots, and spinal cord.
Imaging tests may help especially when:
You have signs of nerve damage.
Another serious problem is suspected.
The cause of your problem isn't clear.
Nonsurgical treatment has not improved your condition and you are thinking about surgery.
Your doctor is asked to provide documentation of your condition, such as when a lawsuit or an insurance issue is involved.
Besides X-rays, tests may include:
MRI. It can help identify problems such as a herniated disc or a pinched nerve.
CT scan. This test looks at the bone and spinal canal.
Myelogram. It looks at the spinal canal and nerve roots.
Electromyogram and nerve conduction studies or nerve blocks. These tests can help find a nerve problem that is causing pain, numbness, or weakness in the arm or hand.