Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Questions about the event and your symptoms are the doctor's first step for making a diagnosis. You also may be asked to fill out a brief form that can help your doctor understand the frequency and severity of your symptoms, as well as your ability to do normal daily tasks.

Examination

During the exam your doctor will need to touch and move your head, neck and arms. He or she will also ask you to move and perform simple tasks. This examination helps your doctor determine:

  • The range of motion in your neck and shoulders
  • The degree of motion that causes pain or an increase in pain
  • Tenderness in the neck, shoulders or back
  • Reflexes, strength and sensation in your limbs

Imaging tests

Your doctor will likely order one or more imaging tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing or contributing to neck pain. These include the following tests:

  • X-rays of the neck taken from multiple angles can identify fractures, dislocations or arthritis.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) is a specialized X-ray technology that can produce multiple cross-sectional images of bone and reveal details of possible bone damage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technology that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to produce detailed 3-D images. In addition to bone injuries, MRI scans can detect some soft tissue injuries, such as damage to the spinal cord, disks or ligaments.
Jan. 20, 2015

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