Helpful Information

Neck Pain: What Causes It, Severity Levels and How It’s Treated

We define neck pain as “the sensation of discomfort in the neck or cervical area”. The neck is extremely vulnerable and at-risk for injury. This is due to its location and range of motion. Neck pain can last for a week to several months, depending on the severity of your injury and when you began treatment.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the causes of neck pain, levels of severity and treatment options. 

What Causes Neck Pain

Neck pain can be caused by a number of things. Some common causes include arthritis, disc degeneration, narrowing of the spinal canal, inflammation, strain or trauma. Rarely, it can be a symptom of cancer or meningitis. [Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons] Lifestyle issues such as obesity, stress and poor posture can also lead to neck pain. [Source: Spine Universe] Because the causes of neck pain are so varied, ranging from everyday strain to blunt trauma, it’s important to seek out a specialist to determine and discuss the source of your neck pain and how to treat it.

Severity Levels

As we stated above, neck pain varies in severity. It can be a minor, dull pain or excruciating enough to interfere with your daily routine and activities. 

According to Spine Health, there are three levels of neck pain:

  • Acute: less than four weeks
  • Subacute: 4-12 weeks
  • Chronic: more than three months

The type of pain can also vary. Some pain is dull, but covers a broader region of the neck and body. Other pain is sharp, acute and only occurs in one spot on the neck. You might also experience back and shoulder pain, muscle spasms and tingling in the arms.

Treatment Options for Neck Pain

Early intervention is key, especially if you’re dealing with subacute and chronic neck pain. Most neck pain can be treated without surgery. Your doctor might prescribe pain medication or muscle relaxers and recommend reducing physical activity. Other non-surgical treatment options include wearing a neck brace, trigger point injection and steroids. Your doctor might also prescribe you a stretching and PT regime.  [Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons]

In other cases, surgery may be needed. Operations, like neck pain, vary based on the severity of the issue, the cause and many other factors. 

Lastly, your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes. Smokes may be asked to stop, and those who are overweight may be asked to lose weight to prevent further neck pain.

As always, we recommend speaking to a spine specialist to discover the right treatment for you. Request an appointment with Dr. Petersen today if you’re experiencing neck pain.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and nonoperative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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