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How are neck problems diagnosed?

Most neck problems can be diagnosed and treated based on your symptoms and a simple examination. It’s unlikely that you’ll need any special tests. Very occasionally your GP may ask for an x-ray to rule out specific causes of neck pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis or an infection.

Your GP may arrange for you to see a specialist if:

  • your pain is very bad
  • your pain spreads into your arm
  • you have dizzy spells.

This may be in a musculoskeletal, rheumatology, orthopaedic or neurology department, depending on the problem. They may arrange for tests, such as blood tests, x-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. An MRI scan tends only to be done if your doctor suspects that a nerve in your neck is being pinched or you might benefit from further treatment, such as an injection or surgery.

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