COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers

Neck & Low Back Pain

What causes neck and low back pain?
Neck and low back pain occurs when the muscles, nerves or ligaments in those areas are strained or injured. There can be many causes behind pain in the neck and low back, including:

  • A ruptured disc
  • A twist or turn that pulls or strains the muscle
  • Cancer
  • Conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Infections
  • Injuries, such as a fall or car accident
  • Overuse of the muscles or poor posture 

Common symptoms

Neck and low back pain intensity can range from mild, dull ache to a more severe, sharp pain. Acute back and neck pain can occur suddenly and last for a few days or weeks. Chronic neck and low back pain is pain that lasts for longer than three months.

How is neck and low back pain diagnosed?

A variety of diagnostic methods are available to determine the cause of neck and low back pain, including:

  • Bone scans
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Discography
  • Electrodiagnostic procedures
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • X-ray imaging

How is neck and low back pain treated?

Treatment for neck and low back pain depends on what is causing the pain. Treatment typically involves medication, such as pain relievers, resting the area, applying hot and cold packs, as well as stretching and mild exercise. In some cases, spinal manipulation and/or massage can relieve the pain and enable you to regain a normal range of movement. If neck or low back pain persist, surgery may be necessary.

The surgeons at REX Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that's best for you. They specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and are experienced in diagnosing and treating disc disorders and disease, using the newest techniques for relieving pain and returning you to an active lifestyle. To make an appointment at REX Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.