What Doctor Should I See For Neck Pain?

What Doctor Should I See For Neck Pain?

Neck pain is extraordinarily common with some studies reporting that as many as 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will experience neck pain in any given year. Although most of the time neck pain will resolve on its own, in other cases the pain returns, or the pain persists (chronic pain). Neck pain may be treated by various healthcare professionals ranging from General Practitioners to Physical Therapists, and Pain Management Specialists. Here’s what to know about seeing a doctor for neck pain.

Neck Pain: See Your Primary Care Physician First

If you’ve developed pain in your neck, your first visit should be to your Primary Care Physician. They will begin the process of ruling out certain conditions.  After all, neck pain has many causes, and it is important to accurately diagnose whether it arises from the muscles, spine, joints, a known injury, or even significant stress. 

Your doctor may palpate (touch/feel) around the neck to check for abnormalities. They may have you move your head up and down or side to side. They will also likely check your strength and reflexes in your arms and shoulders. If a pulled muscle, pinched nerve, or arthritis is suspected, they may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, or prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. They may also refer you to a Physical Therapist for specialized exercises.

If your Primary Care Physician suspects a problem with the cervical spine or joints, they may order diagnostic tests including an X-ray or an MRI. 

Neck Pain: How Physical Therapists Can Help

For ongoing pain in the neck, your Primary Care Physician may refer you to a Physical Therapist. Physical Therapy is an excellent treatment modality for conditions such as a stiff neck, or muscle spasms in the neck. The goals of physical therapy for your neck are often threefold:

  • To strengthen weak muscles
  • To stretch strained or rigid muscles
  • To improve flexibility in the neck

Physical therapy for neck pain may take time, as you relearn how to maintain good posture while standing, sitting at work, and scrolling on your phone.

When to See a Spine Surgeon for Neck Pain

If your Primary Care Physician receives results from imaging tests that show a skeletal problem in your spine, you may be referred to a Spine Specialist or Surgeon for further care. Although many skeletal issues in the upper spine do not require surgery, some spinal injuries and diseases may only be resolved through surgery.

Neck Pain: Why You’re Referred to a Pain Management Specialist

A referral to a Pain Management Specialist for neck pain only occurs when your care team has exhausted their available treatments and your neck pain persists. Pain Management Specialists have a variety of treatment options available that other medical providers do not offer. 

For example, pain in your neck may be treated with any combination of physical therapy, medication, or even surgery, along with pain management treatments such as nerve blocks,  trigger point injections, facet joint injections, radiofrequency ablation, epidural steroid injections, or spinal cord stimulation. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Neck Pain

I work Monday-Friday. Do you offer extended hours?

Yes. To accommodate our busy patients, the American Pain Institute begins seeing patients at 7:30 am Monday - Friday.

How long should I wait before seeing a doctor for neck pain?

Neck pain is incredibly widespread, and often resolves without treatment. But if you’re experiencing neck pain with no known cause that has persisted for more than a week, it’s best to call your Primary Care Physician. 

Treatment for Neck Pain at the American Pain Institute

At the American Pain Institute in Portsmouth, NH, Dr. Joshua Greenspan is a highly experienced and respected Pain Management Specialist. Known for his compassion and incredible listening skills, Dr. Greenspan has a proven track record of being able to help those suffering from chronic pain when other treatments have failed. If you’ve been referred for pain management, call 603-766-8500 or message us.