Cervicalgia Overview

Cervicalgia is neck pain that does not spread to the upper extremities. The key to effective cervicalgia treatment is identifying the cause. A Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) spine specialist makes an accurate diagnosis and prescribes a symptom-reducing treatment plan.

Cervicalgia can occur anywhere in the neck, from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders. The most obvious case of neck pain is from a sports injury or motor vehicle accident. Whiplash, or neck strain, may cause microscopic tears in neck muscles, which causes pain, tightness, and swelling. Cervicalgia causes localized pain in the neck that ranges from a “stiff neck” to an inability to turn your head or bend your neck without sharp pain or tight muscles.

Symptoms & Causes

Your neck pain will be evaluated and diagnosed by your doctor through a physical exam and by asking you questions regarding your symptoms and any injuries, illnesses, or activities that may be contributing to the pain. If the pain does not get better within a few weeks, you may need an X-ray, MRI, or CT to determine the root cause. 

Cervicalgia symptoms include:

  • Dull, persisting pain
  • Sharp, stabbing pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Tightness in the upper back
  • Burning or aching sensations in the neck or upper back

Common cervicalgia causes are:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis. As these conditions are more common in older people, age is a risk factor for cervicalgia
  • Accidents that involve sudden neck movement, such as whiplash from a car crash
  • Overuse or long-term stress that causes clenching of the neck and shoulder muscles, leading to a strain on the neck
  • Poor posture or long periods with the neck at an awkward angle, such as when sleeping or working at a desk
  • Sports injuries that involve sudden neck movement, such as from an impact sport
  • Weak neck muscles 
  • Diseases or conditions that affect the spine, such as spinal infections or meningitis

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat the overwhelming majority of cervicalgia cases. After a thorough evaluation, a CONA spine specialist may recommend:

  • A soft collar neck brace
  • Activity modification
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications
  • Heat
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest and ice

Surgery is not used to treat cervicalgia.

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