What is neck pain?

Neck pain and dizziness are symptoms with various causes and treatments.
Neck pain and dizziness are symptoms with various causes and treatments.

Neck pain is any degree of discomfort in the front or back of the neck between the head and the shoulders. Neck pain can feel dull, aching, sharp, piercing, shooting, burning, and may increase or decrease with certain movements of the neck. Neck pain can range from mild to severe.

What is dizziness?

Dizziness can be characterized as either vertigo with disequilibrium or lightheadedness associated with feeling faint or the potential to lose consciousness or “pass out.” Poor balance generally accompanies dizziness. Dizziness may or may not be associated with pain or other symptoms.

What are the causes and risk factors of neck pain?

Causes of neck pain can include:

Risk factors for neck pain include:

What are the causes and risk factors of dizziness?

Causes of dizziness can include:

Risk factors for dizziness include:

What are signs of neck pain and dizziness?

Neck pain can be associated with stiffness or abnormal positioning of the neck, commonly referred to as “wry neck.” There may be pain or worsening of pain with certain movements of the neck. Sometimes there is notable swelling and tenderness of neck tissues such as the muscles or lymph nodes, which may be enlarged. Rash may be present. Occasionally, neck pain is associated with dizziness.

Dizziness can be associated with poor balance, fainting or “passing out,” injury, poor speech or motor movement, dry mouth, and other signs.

When to seek medical care for neck pain and dizziness

With any unexplained or persisting neck pain or dizziness, consult with a health care professional. This is essential to determine whether the symptoms are harmless (benign) and temporary or serious and threatening.

You can often manage common causes of harmless neck pain and dizziness -- including neck strains, viral infections of the mouth and throat, and minor dehydration -- with home remedies and rehydration. You can use over-the-counter analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), rest, topical analgesics, and heat applications for minor pain.

What specialists treat conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness?

Specialists who evaluate and treat the causes of neck pain and dizziness include:

  • Family practitioners
  • General practitioners
  • Urgent care doctors
  • Emergency physicians
  • Neurologists
  • Internal medicine specialists
  • ENT physicians
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Rheumatologists
  • Orthopedists

How do doctors diagnose conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness?

Doctors diagnose the conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness after a history and physical examination, including measuring blood pressure, respiratory rate, and pulse. Doctors may also perform other tests that include blood testing, electrocardiogram (EKG), and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan, and others.

What are the treatments for conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness?

The treatments for the conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness depend on the precise condition involved. Treatments can include:

What is the prognosis for conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness?

The prognosis, or outlook, for conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness depends on the specific condition causing the symptom. Because common causes of neck pain and dizziness are often benign, the prognosis for conditions that cause neck pain and dizziness is usually good. However, as listed above, many serious causes of neck pain and dizziness can have a worse prognosis or outlook.

How to prevent neck pain and dizziness

To some degree, you can prevent neck pain and dizziness by avoiding injury, staying hydrated, getting regular medical checkups, not smoking, and minimizing alcohol intake.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/8/2020
References
Firestein, Gary S., Ralph C. Budd, Sherine E. Gabriel, Iain B. McInnes, and James R. O'Dell. Kelley and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology, 2-Volume Set, 10th Edition. Philadelphia: Elsevier, 2017.
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