How do I know if my neck and back pain is muscular?

Ronald B. Tolchin, DO
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Your doctor can rule out certain medical conditions that may be the cause of the neck and back pain. It may require comprehensive physical examination and diagnostic testing if deemed necessary.

If there was no obvious injury, the pain could be muscular in nature from overstraining, or it could be the result of disc disorder. Either way, physical therapy may be prescribed to condition, stretch and loosen the neck and back muscles to relieve the pain.

When the herniated disc ruptures and pushes out, the nerves may become pinched. A herniated disc may occur suddenly, such as with a fall or an accident, or it could happen gradually with repetitive straining of the spine. This may lead to you developing weakness and or numbness in a specific nerve distribution.  Both conditions should be assessed by a physician.

Gerald M. Silverman
Chiropractic Medicine
You and your doctor must first rule out a serious underlying medical problem or direct physical trauma such as injury from falling, being struck by an object, or being in a violent car accident, and if no red flags are present, the next step is to evaluate the history, characteristics, and location of your neck and back muscle pain.

The primary history for the onset of muscular neck and back pain is:

  • Pain that began gradually or for no apparent reason
  • Pain that began with a mild to moderate strain
  • Pain that starts or gets worse after you stay in one position

The primary characteristics of muscular neck and back pain are:

  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Pain that is worse in the morning and gradually gets better as the day goes on
  • Pain that you can describe as a tightness, pulling, achiness, or soreness
  • Pain that with prolonged positioning causes a burning or tingling that goes away with movement

The primary location of muscular pain is:

  • A specific, local area the size of a fist or smaller
  • A nonspecific, broad, or beltlike pattern across the central lower back
  • An entire region of your neck or back (in severe cases)
Your Miraculous Back: A Step-By-Step Guide to Relieving Neck & Back Pain

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Your Miraculous Back: A Step-By-Step Guide to Relieving Neck & Back Pain

Many of us complain about our 'bad back,' but this book argues that our backs are, without exception, amazing examples of bioengineering, capable of dramatic feats of strength, flexibility, and...

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Back Pain

Back Pain

Just about everyone has experienced some level of back pain. It is one of the most common ailments brought on by disease, injury, or misalignment of the spine. It can be a dull muscle ache in the lower back or a severe, sharp pain ...

in that affects your ability to bend over or stand up straight. Most often back pain results from strained muscles and ligaments that surround the spine, but it can also be caused by structural problems with the bones of the spine. There are treatment options for back pain, and understanding the causes and symptoms is key to preventing it in the first place.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.