Cervical pain that is muscular, discogenic, or arthritic in nature. Patient may be experiencing limited ROM of C-spine or have pain referred to the trapezius or upper extremity.
Initial Diagnosis and Management
- History and physical examination.
- Radiograph of the spine if cervical pain started with trauma.
- MRI/CT not indicated initially.
- Initial Management:
- Do not prescribe muscle relaxants as they are not effective.
- Soft collar not recommended except for 1-5 days s/p high speed whiplash trauma (i.e., MVA).
- Appropriate activity limitations on lifting, overhead work, heavy headgear, etc.
- Ice packs every 20 minute q2h x 72 hours - then change to heat PRN.
- Encourage gentle, pain-free ROM.
Ongoing Management and Objectives
- Should observe a reduction in pain level within 5-7 days.
- Chronic upper trapezius tension may persist for up to 2 months.
- Expect increased AROM of C-spine and decreased muscle spasm within 2 weeks, complete resolution will take longer.
Indications for Specialty Care Referral
- Specialty Care Referral (Physical Therapy):
- No improvement after 7-10 days of initial primary care management.
- If the patient has radicular symptoms.
- Specialty Care Referral (Orthopedic Spine Referral):
- If the patient has neurological findings (motor, sensory, or reflex deficits) and/or has positive MRI findings.
Criteria for Return to Primary Care
Chronic conditions with a stable neurologic exam in patients that have been evaluated by Orthopedics or Neurosurgery and are not surgical candidates.