Neck Pain

Houston Methodist offers expert care and advanced treatments for acute and chronic neck pain. Our team of board-certified spine specialists can find the source of your symptoms and relieve your neck pain.

The spine specialists at Houston Methodist combine years of advanced training and experience to accurately diagnose and treat all types of neck pain. Whether you are struggling with a minor stiff neck or severe, debilitating nerve pain, our full range of treatment options and personalized care will help you find relief and get back to your daily activities.

Mild neck pain typically improves in a week or two with rest and at-home treatments. But if your pain lingers or gets worse, it's time to see a specialist. 

Diagnosing & Treating Neck Pain

How is neck pain diagnosed?

Diagnosing the source of your neck pain starts with a comprehensive exam. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam to check for the source of pain, weakness and other symptoms, such as:


  • Dull, sharp or burning pain that gets worse with movement
  • Intense pain that interferes with work, sleep or daily activities 
  • Mild tenderness
  • Muscle stiffness that limits how far you can turn your head
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both arms


In some cases, we may order imaging such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm or rule out other underlying medical conditions or injuries that may be causing symptoms. Common causes of neck pain include:


  • Accidents or contact sports injuries
  • Degenerative disk disease (wearing down of the vertebrae caused by aging)
  • Herniated disk
  • Muscle weakness, strain or pulled muscle
  • Neck bone or joint abnormalities
  • Poor posture, including bad workstation ergonomics 
  • Trauma
  • Viral infections with lymph node swelling
  • Whiplash, commonly seen after rear-end car accidents 
  • Work or household injuries (lifting or moving)


Tumors, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis and meningitis are among the more rare and serious causes of neck pain.

What treatments are available?

Houston Methodist offers the full range of treatment options for neck pain. Our team approach brings together a variety of specialists who collaborate to determine the right treatment for your condition. 

Mild neck pain can be treated with at-home therapies, including: 


  • Gentle stretching or exercises
  • Heating pads or ice packs (ice for the first 48 hours, heat afterward)
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Rest – avoiding physical activity for a few days
  • Sleeping on a firmer mattress or with a special neck pillow


Moderate to severe cases may require more intensive treatment, including:


  • Injection-based treatments to address nerve pain, such as epidural steroid injections  
  • Integrative therapies, like acupuncture and massage therapy  
  • Physical therapy 
  • Prescription drugs, such as muscle relaxers, cortisone injections or narcotic pain medication


Surgery is rarely needed for neck pain unless there is a serious underlying condition or a threat to the spine or to surrounding nerves. Houston Methodist’s spine surgeons have the experience and training to perform these delicate procedures. Our minimally invasive approaches reduce surgery risk, speed recovery and help you return to your routine and daily activities.

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

We understand how difficult it is to live with neck pain. Whether you are looking for a diagnosis or a second opinion, we’re here to help. Houston Methodist’s spine experts have the expertise to locate the source of your pain and help you find relief. Our compassionate team will design a personalized treatment plan that works for you. 

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