Neck pain: What if it is not musculoskeletal?

Aust J Gen Pract. 2018 May;47(5):279-282. doi: 10.31128/AFP-10-17-4358.


Background: Neck pain is a common presentation in general practice, with muscle strain or osteoarthritis the most common diagnoses. A systematic approach for identifying red flags for alternative causes is required to appropriately investigate or refer for specialist opinion.

Objective: The aim of this article is to highlight features of neurological and other causes of neck pain in adults that may present in general practice, and to outline a quick and practical diagnostic approach.

Discussion: Neck pain in adults may result from musculoskeletal or neurological disease, or as a component of a wide variety of metabolic, infective or malignant disorders. Focused attention to those components of history and examination that suggest alternative conditions can assist the diagnostic process.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Neck Pain / diagnosis*
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Tremor / etiology