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Neck Pain

Neck pain can be acute, meaning that it began suddenly, lasting up to a few weeks; or chronic, meaning that it is a constant, nagging pain. Neck pain can be caused from muscle strain, disc problems, or trauma. Sometimes, it can mean something more serious is going on.

The vast majority of neck problems are successfully treated without surgery. In some cases, refraining from certain activities while your body heals is all that is needed.

The goal of any treatment is to reduce pain, limit further degeneration, and get you back to your activities as soon as possible. Some nonsurgical treatments include physical therapy, steroid injections, and joint injections.

Neck Pain That May Require Surgery

Neck pain that causes numbness or weakness in the arm or forearm, or tingling in the fingers or hand, is commonly caused by herniated or ruptured cervical discs, located in the spinal column near the neck.

The spine is composed of several bones, called vertebrae, that are cushioned by small discs. These discs are made up of a tough outer layer that surrounds a jelly-like substance. They act as shock absorbers for the spine.

A disc is herniated when a fragment of the jelly-like substance, called the nucleus, is pushed out of the tough outer layer (called the annulus) through a tear or rupture into the spinal column. When this occurs, the displaced disc fragment presses on the spinal nerves, causing pain that can be severe.

The location of the herniated disc determines where pain occurs. Ruptured discs in the cervical area of the spine, located at the top of the spine near the neck, cause neck and arm pain.

Diagnostic Tests

To help determine if you are a candidate for neck surgery, a surgeon will perform a physical examination and review your medical history. Diagnostic tests that may be used include:

  • a detailed history, including when and where your neck hurts, and how long you have had pain
  • X-ray
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):
  • Myleography: This test includes an X-ray of the spinal canal following injection of a contrast material into the spinal column. It can show pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to herniated discs, bone spurs or tumors.

Surgery to Relieve Pain

In general, surgery to relief pain from any of these issues, will involve one or more of the following procedures.


removal or partial removal of a disc to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve.


removal of most of the bony arch, or lamina of a vertebra to relieve pressure on a nerve.

Cervical Fusion

grafting bone onto the spine to create a solid union between two or more vertebrae. Screws, plates, and rods may be used to provide additional spinal support.

In certain cases, surgeons may use minimally invasive techniques for these procedures. One of these procedures is called a microdiscectomy. It involves using a microscope to remove a disc fragment that is putting pressure on a nerve. This procedure requires only a very small incision.

Recovery and Return to Normal Activities

Recovery time will vary depending on your particular situation and the type of surgery you had. Due to advancements in technology, your stay in the hospital will only be one to three days.

Your doctor will usually prescribe pain medication and help determine when you can resume normal activities, including work, driving and exercising. It is common to feel some discomfort as you slowly increase activity, but increased pain may be a warning that you are doing too much too soon.

Get Help For Neck Pain at Baptist

If you would like to be treated at Baptist for neck pain, the first step is being seen by one of our surgeons. Your physician can make arrangements for this appointment.

All surgeons on staff at Baptist are board certified, and many have sub-specialty training within their field.

See Neurosurgeons at Baptist.

Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons


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