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:
  • Meningitis
  • Torticollis
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Cervical Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Encephalitis
  • A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

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:
dry eyes
severe rheumatoid arthritis
pain between shoulder blades
major pain in cold/cool/damp weather
morning stiffness lasting hours
slight stiff neck
significant neck pain
variable duration morning stiffness
Heberden's nodes
normal ANA levels
long term neck stiffness
severe neck pain
... 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
Torticollis 93% Confirm
A Subarachnoid Hemorrhage 27% Unlikely
Encephalitis 12% Unlikely
Rheumatoid Arthritis 2% Ruled out
Meningitis 0% Ruled out
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 0% Ruled out
Cervical Arthritis 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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