Back and Neck Pain

The following discussion is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to provide the reader with specific medical advice. Please consult with your personal physician, or with a neurologist, for specific advice, guidance and information regarding your particular circumstances.


Back and neck pain are some of the most common aliments in our society and come from a variety of causes. They may be responsible for significant loss of work time, family time as well as leisure activities. Pain and disability may be mild to severe and the musculoskeletal system, nervous system or a combination of both may be responsible for neck or back pain. Chronic strain or stress, injury and degenerative disease may contribute to these conditions. Treatment strategies and success are dependent on finding the particular cause such that the most effective treatment may be instituted.


Symptoms vary from person to person and may include mild to severe pain that may or may not radiate into the extremities. Numbness and / or weakness of extremities may occur. Symptoms may wax and wane and may be worsen or improved with different positions or postures. The ability to function, walk or sleep comfortably may be difficult.


A complete medical history and neurological exam is the starting point of evaluating the cause of neck and back pain as well as determining an effective treatment. Following this evaluation, the physician may obtain neurodiagnostic testing, X-rays, computerized tomography scan (CAT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) among other tests to diagnosis the specific problem. The design of the evaluation is individualized depending on the patient’s symptoms and findings.


Treatment varies widely depending on the patient’s symptoms, severity of pain, disability and the findings on exam and testing. Physical measures such as posture mechanics, exercises, heat and rehabilitation are often important. Medication may be helpful. Surgery is only considered in patients with significant structural compromise of the nervous system or spine which do not respond to other conservative measures.