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What is causing my neck pain?

For the spine, there is not always a clear black and white answer of the specific anatomical structure causing neck symptoms and patients often get hung up on wanting a firm anatomical diagnosis. While MRIs may show lots of scary words, they are notorious for false positives and often show findings that are likely irrelevant, leading to unnecessary surgeries. The false positive finding means they show findings that are present in the vast majority of the population, including folks with no neck pain. 

Due to this inability to identify an exact structure causing neck pain, even with an MRI, patients are best treated on a “signs and symptoms” approach. We look for characteristics in your presentation that show you are more likely to respond successfully to certain interventions and exercises.

For more details on the “signs and symptoms approach,” please see the following articles:




  1. “Neck Pain Guidelines: Revision 2017: Using The Evidence To Guide Physical Therapist Practice,.”. Vol 47, no. 7, 2017, pp. 511-512. Journal Of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT), https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2017.0507.

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