When Neck Pain Should Prompt a Visit to a Neurologist

Oct 13, 2022

Causes of Neck PainLiving with daily neck pain can severely impact your quality of life and is a leading cause of depression after an accident. When seeking treatment for neck pain, one of the best medical professionals you can reach out to is a neurologist. At AICA Orthopedics Snellville, our approach is a comprehensive one, aiming to get to the root cause of any neck pain you are having and develop a treatment plan that will get you back to enjoying life!

Causes of Neck Pain

Pain that begins in the neck, sometimes with radiating pain down one or both arms, can be classified as neck pain. Neck pain can come from a variety of sources, both disease-related and injury-related.

These disorders or injuries can affect the tissues, nerves, muscles, bones, and ligaments of the neck. The portion of the spinal column in the neck is called the cervical spine. The spinal cord runs through the entire spinal column and terminates at the brain stem, at the base of the skull, and top of the neck.

What Is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a medical doctor trained and specialized in treating disorders of the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and nerves. Since your nervous system is the body’s command center, neurologists are incredibly important to the medical field. They play a large role at AICA Orthopedics since we treat accident victims regularly. Head and neck injuries can’t result in lifelong conditions that will require ongoing care after the initial healing period is over. A neurologist is going to be the ideal physician to follow you throughout your life.

What Is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon has the same initial education and training as a neurologist, but they undergo an additional 5-7 years of surgical residency. They treat conditions of the brain, spine, and nervous system primarily through surgical means. Seeing a neurosurgeon does not mean you will always end up undergoing surgery. Neurosurgery is typically required when a patient has undergone a traumatic injury to the head, neck, or back. Neurosurgeons also work hand in hand with neurologists if surgical intervention is needed for a more chronic condition.

Why Should You See a Neurologist Instead of a Neurosurgeon?

Why Should You See a Neurologist Instead of a NeurosurgeonAICA Orthopedics has both neurologists and neurosurgeons on staff. You might assume they do the same thing, but it is important to know the difference and how a neurologist should be your first step when seeking a diagnosis and treatment of neck pain.

A neurosurgeon performs surgery, and not every injury or cause of your neck pain will need surgery. A neurologist will be able to thoroughly examine you and perform any necessary diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your neck pain. If you do require surgical intervention, AICA has neurologists and neurosurgeons on staff to collaborate on your treatment plan.

When Should You See a Neurologist for Neck Pain?

If your neck pain is chronic

Pain that is chronic can impact your daily life and make simple tasks more difficult. Chronic pain is pain that lasts more than three months and often years. Chronic pain is not always the result of illness or aging but can develop as a result of untreated or improperly treated acute injuries.

At AICA Orthopedics, we have a comprehensive approach to chronic pain, and this begins with an evaluation by one of our neurologists. Pain is transmitted through nerves, and a neurologist is the best doctor to help begin the diagnostic and treatment process.

Neck pain that gets worse

If your neck pain not only does not resolve but progressively gets worse, it is time to contact a neurologist for a full evaluation. Recovery outlook improves the sooner you seek treatment, and if your pain is worsening, it is time to seek a neurologist to evaluate what may be causing your pain.

Muscle weakness with neck pain

Muscle weakness is an indication of chronic neck pain. Nerve impingement can also cause muscle weakness. Muscle weakness that worsens and does not resolve is an indication of the severity of your injury. This can be caused by damage to the spinal cord but can also be caused by muscle inflammation and stiffness.

Headaches, in addition to neck pain

If you are experiencing a persistent headache in addition to neck pain, you should seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. These headaches typically do not respond to standard over-the-counter treatments, and the intensity increases over time. The headache is usually throbbing and hard to pinpoint what may be causing them.

Our neurologists at AICA Orthopedics specialize in treating the nerves and have expert experience treating headaches as a result of trauma and can thoroughly examine you and develop a treatment plan.

Neck pain with associated numbness and tingling

Neck pain with associated numbness and tingling can be scary. These symptoms, in combination, can indicate nerve damage or nerve impingement.

Neck pain caused by trauma

If you have sustained a trauma resulting in neck pain and injury, you should always seek a medical evaluation. Accidents such as car wrecks and falls can cause severe neck injuries and long-term consequences if not treated promptly.

Whiplash is the most common cause of neck pain after a car accident and can worsen if left untreated.

Damage to the cervical vertebrae, such as a fracture, can cause pain, decreased movement, and chronic degenerative concerns. If you wait to seek the treatment, you are increasing your risk of long-term complications and the possibility of needing surgery.

Neck pain that wakes you up

Lack of sleep makes recovery from injuries or procedures harder and can often cause complications. If your neck pain is causing you to wake up frequently or prevents you from sleeping, it is a good idea to call AICA Orthopedics to have the root of your neck pain addressed as quickly as possible to restore healthy sleep.

Difficulty breathing and swallowing

In general, any difficulty breathing or swallowing is very dangerous. When accompanied by neck pain, these symptoms can indicate a more severe problem. If you have damage to your spinal cord, your body may not be receiving the correct signals to swallow or even restrict your ability to inhale and exhale. Difficulty breathing and swallowing accompanied by neck pain can also indicate cervical instability.

Neck Pain with Urinary Incontinence

Similar to difficulty breathing and swallowing, urinary incontinence following neck pain can indicate a problem with the nerves responsible for bladder control. This could be caused by spinal disc damage or direct damage to the spinal cord.

Neck pain that doesn’t respond to standard treatments

Most mild neck pain, often caused by muscle strain, will resolve on its own within a few days or a week. Standard at-home treatments include ice and heat, stretching, massage, and rest. If your pain does not resolve with these, it is important to see a doctor.

If your neck pain is not resolving with prescribed treatment, like physical therapy, this is an indication of something more severe going on. There could be nerve damage that needs to be addressed by a neurologist, and more intensive diagnostics may need to be completed in order to find the best treatment path.

If your neck pain does not resolve with medication, rest, or physical therapy, you should seek a referral to a neurologist for more testing and specialized treatments.

What Are Some Sources of Neck Pain?

The source of your neck pain can be highly varied and have a multitude of sources. A neurologist is the best person to help get to the root of your pain in order to develop a course of treatment.

Disorders such as arthritis, disc generation, or cervical stenosis can all cause neck pain. Trauma to the neck can cause muscle inflammation and strain resulting in neck pain as well.

Disc degeneration is typically associated with age, but an injury can also lead to arthritis and disc degeneration. Our team at AICA Orthopedics can treat these conditions in collaboration with your neurologist in the same office to achieve the best recovery and treatment possible.

What Diagnostics Can AICA Perform?

If your neck pain is the result of a traumatic accident, diagnosis can be more straightforward since you and your neurologist know going in that there was a significant external factor to your pain.

Neck pain that seems to begin with no cause may be more complex to diagnose, so your neurologist may order a series of diagnostic tests for the most comprehensive picture.


Medical imaging is used to see the skeletal aspects of the body. An x-ray will show any fractures or foreign bodies that you may have.

CT Scan

A highly detailed scan of the soft tissues and skeletal structures of the body. A CT is often used in trauma due to its speed and high resolution. You can get a good idea of the condition of the spine and disc structures.


Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is used to see soft tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. If our doctors suspect a spinal injury, an MRI will be ordered to get a good view of the structures involved.


An EMG, or electromyography, is a diagnostic procedure that tests the muscles and nerves. An EMG can determine if the nerves are damaged and if they are working correctly.

Possible Treatment Options for Neck Pain

Possible Treatment Options for Neck PainThere are many different options for treating neck pain. Unless your neck pain is being caused by trauma that needs immediate surgical intervention, your neurologist will most likely start with non-surgical options first, as surgery on your neck is a higher-risk surgery. However, that decision will be made after a complete exam, all appropriate testing, and a thorough conversation with you and your support system.


Medications such as anti-inflammatories, opioids (only as prescribed), or muscle relaxers can help with neck pain. Additionally, steroid injections can be helpful for temporary pain relief. Your doctor will inject steroids into the spine to relieve inflammation and pain.

Physical therapy

One non-surgical treatment for neck pain and associated injuries is physical therapy. A large portion of patients seen for neck pain can see a resolution of that pain with appropriate physical therapy. Physical therapy can help relieve pain and retrain the muscles in your neck and upper back to support your neck and its movements. At AICA Orthopedics, our office is a comprehensive office, so your neurologist will have a great relationship with the physical therapy team.


Another non-invasive treatment option is chiropractic treatment. At AICA Orthopedics, our chiropractors can help alleviate pain and evaluate your vertebrae to see if anything is turned or out of place. Chiropractors perform gentle manual adjustments to correct spinal misalignment and even release trapped nerves.

Neck Collar

If your neck pain is caused by an instability of the cervical spine you may benefit from a supportive neck collar. The neck collar will stabilize the spine and relieve pain and discomfort while going through other treatments and diagnostics.


If your AICA neurologist determines that your next steps are to consult a neurosurgeon, they will work with the AICA team to make sure you have the best care possible.

Potential surgical interventions include:

  • Vertebroplasty – a procedure to stabilize compression fractures
  • Discectomy – removal of damaged spinal disc
  • Spinal Fusions – the fusion of two or more vertebrae to help stabilize the spine and relieve pain

Contact AICA Snellville Today

If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, please contact our

AICA Orthopedics Snellville office as soon as possible. Our office treats neck pain daily and has highly experienced neurologists on staff to evaluate and treat your pain today.

Regardless if your pain was caused by an accident or injury, or you aren’t sure, we are a full-service diagnostic orthopedic center. Our treatment approach is comprehensive, and our neurologists will work closely with physical therapists, chiropractors, and, if necessary, our neurosurgeons to develop the best plan of care to get you back to enjoying your daily life. Call AICA Orthopedics at Snellville if you are experiencing neck pain to get started on the road to recovery!


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