Duration Of Current Neck Pain

What Causes Painful Neck?

Painful neck can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'critical'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose painful neck, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "painful neck" as a symptom.  Here are seven possibilities:
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Encephalitis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Torticollis
  • A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
  • Meningitis
  • Cervical Arthritis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
major joint pain/swelling/stiffness
stiff neck
pain in cold/cool/damp weather
frequent morning stiffness
pain between shoulder blades
recent onset neck stiffness
low lymphocyte count
variable duration morning stiffness
slight neck pain
rheumatoid arthritis
frequent unexplained fevers
dry eyes
... and more than 10 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of painful neck:
Cause Probability Status
Cervical Arthritis 98% Confirm
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 18% Unlikely
Rheumatoid Arthritis 14% Unlikely
A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage 4% Ruled out
Meningitis 3% Ruled out
Encephalitis 3% Ruled out
Torticollis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate neck pain/stiffness, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
If you have neck pain, for how long have you had it?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know / not applicable
→ Over 1 year
→ 1 to 12 months
→ 1 week to 1 month
→ Less than 1 week
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either long term neck pain or recent onset neck pain, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
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