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Frequently Asked Questions


What causes neck pain?

Neck pain is very common and it is rarely caused by anything serious. Most of the time it is caused by a combination of joint and muscle symptoms and this is often referred to as mechanical neck pain. This can sometimes be caused by a specific injury such as a car accident but more often than not there isn’t anything obvious that triggers the problem.

Most of the time the common symptoms are pain and stiffness in the neck, with some loss of the normal movement. Occasionally pain, numbness or tingling in the arms can occur and having this assessed by your GP or physiotherapist is recommended.

Do I need an X-Ray or scan?

In the vast majority of cases an x-ray or MRI scan is not needed as it won’t change the way your neck pain is managed. Occasionally further investigations are required and an assessment by either your GP or physiotherapist will help to determine if this is the case.

Do I need surgery?

Most of the time surgery or injections for neck pain are not required. Occasionally further interventions are required but an assessment by a GP or physiotherapist will be able to identify if this is the case.

What can I do to help?

The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to help with your neck pain.

Exercise is an important part of managing your neck pain. General exercise (e.g. walking or running) can help to reduce pain and improve your overall health, while neck exercises can help to improve the strength and movement around your neck. Relaxation exercises can also help to improve tension in the muscles around the neck, often caused by stress or anxiety.

Modifying activities such as prolonged postures or movements that irritate the neck can help to improve symptoms. Try to avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time and if certain positions make your neck problem worse it may be worth avoiding those in the short term. Gradually returning to your normal activities as your symptoms settle is an important part of your recovery, so don’t avoid things for too long.

Addressing other lifestyle factors such as stress, anxiety, low mood, lack of sleep and poor fitness can all help in the management of neck pain. If you need help with any of these then speak to your GP for further advice.

Is there anything I should look out for?

If you notice any of the following then you should seek medical advice as soon as possible:

  • Severe worsening of the pain, especially if the symptoms spread down your arm

  • Severe dizziness or blackouts

  • Changes in your vision e.g. double vision

  • Increasing weakness in your arms/hands

  • Changes in your bladder or bowel (e.g. difficulty passing or controlling your urine)

  • A severe headache, unlike any that you have had before and one that doesn’t respond to normal painkillers

  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

  • A previous history of cancer

Professional Resources

Help For GPs

This section is coming soon, in the meantime please contact the MSK team on 0115 8838300 for any advice.

Clinical Pathways

Please Click Here to link to the Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG) Pathways resource.