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Neck (Cervical Spine)

Neck (Cervical Spine)

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Neck MRI (Cervical Spine)

Neck pain is a common condition that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. While there are many potential causes of neck pain, ranging from muscle strain to arthritis, imaging tests like cervical spine MRI scans can help identify the underlying issue. In this article, we'll explore the role of cervical MRI in diagnosing the causes of neck pain, what these scans can reveal, and what to expect during the procedure.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Neck pain can manifest in various ways, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common symptoms associated with neck pain:

  1. Localized Pain: Pain concentrated in the neck area, which can range from a dull ache to sharp or stabbing sensations.
  2. Stiffness: Reduced flexibility and difficulty moving the neck, often accompanied by muscle tightness and tension.
  3. Headaches: Pain that radiates from the neck to the head, often referred to as cervicogenic headaches.
  4. Radiating Pain: Pain that spreads from the neck to the shoulders, arms, or upper back, often due to nerve compression.
  5. Numbness or Tingling: Sensations of numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers, which can indicate nerve involvement.
  6. Muscle Weakness: Weakness in the neck, shoulders, or arms, which can affect grip strength and overall arm function.
  7. Reduced Range of Motion: Difficulty turning the head or looking up and down, which can interfere with daily activities.
  8. Grinding or Popping Sounds: Audible grinding, popping, or clicking sounds when moving the neck, often due to joint or cartilage issues.
  9. Swelling: Visible swelling or inflammation in the neck area, which can be a sign of injury or infection.
  10. Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or unsteady, which can sometimes accompany neck pain due to disrupted blood flow or nerve signals.
  11. Difficulty Swallowing: Experiencing pain or discomfort while swallowing, which can occur if neck muscles or nerves are affected.

Recognizing these symptoms can help in identifying the underlying cause of neck pain and seeking appropriate treatment. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain is a prevalent issue that can arise from various conditions and lifestyle factors. Understanding the primary causes can help in identifying the best treatment options. Here are some of the most common causes of neck pain:

  • Herniated Discs: Discs that have bulged or ruptured, potentially pressing on nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, tingling, or weakness.
  • Fractures: Breaks in the cervical vertebrae due to trauma or conditions like osteoporosis, resulting in severe pain and potential instability.
  • Tumors: Abnormal growths, either benign or malignant, that can press on spinal structures, causing pain and neurological symptoms.
  • Pinched Nerves: Nerves compressed by bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons, leading to sharp pain, tingling, or weakness in the neck and arms.
  • Arthritis: Degeneration of the joints in the cervical spine due to wear and tear, causing chronic pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
  • Whiplash: A neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Most commonly occurs during car accidents. It can lead to damaged neck muscles, ligaments, and nerves, resulting in pain and stiffness.

Risk Factors for Neck Pain

Several factors can increase the risk of developing neck pain, such as:

  • Poor Posture: Habitual slouching or hunching over, especially during prolonged sitting or screen time.
  • Age: Degenerative changes in the cervical spine are more common with aging.
  • Repetitive Strain: Activities that involve repetitive neck movements or sustained positions.
  • Injury: Trauma from falls, car accidents, or sports injuries.
  • Stress: Chronic stress can lead to muscle tension and pain in the neck.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can weaken neck muscles and contribute to pain.
  • Smoking: Increases the risk of developing degenerative spinal conditions.
  • Genetics: Family history of neck pain or spinal disorders.
  • Occupational Hazards: Jobs that require heavy lifting, awkward neck positions, or prolonged sitting.
  • Poor Sleeping Habits: Using inadequate pillows or sleeping in uncomfortable positions.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can strain the cervical spine.

What does a Neck MRI Show?

Detailed Images of the Neck's Structures:

  • Herniated Discs:some text
    • Bulging or ruptured discs pressing on nerves.
  • Spinal Stenosis:some text
    • Narrowing of the spinal canal.
  • Bone Spurs:some text
    • Extra bone growths on vertebrae.
  • Spinal Cord Compression:some text
    • Compression of the spinal cord.

Detection of Conditions:

  • Tumors:some text
    • Abnormal growths.
  • Infections:some text
    • Signs of infection in bones or tissues.
  • Inflammation:some text
    • Swelling and irritation from conditions like arthritis.
  • Nerve Damage:some text
    • Abnormalities in the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Structural Abnormalities:some text
    • Congenital or acquired deformities.

Preparing for a Cervical spine MRI scan

  1. Dress Comfortably: Wear loose, comfortable clothing without any metal zippers, buttons, or snaps. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown, so it's helpful to wear clothing that is easy to remove.
  2. Remove Metal Objects: Before the scan, remove any metal objects or accessories, such as jewelry, watches, eyeglasses, hairpins, or hearing aids. These items can interfere with the MRI machine and affect image quality.
  3. Discuss Claustrophobia: If you have claustrophobia or anxiety about enclosed spaces, inform the imaging facility in advance. They may offer strategies or accommodations to help you feel more comfortable during the scan. 
  4. Arrive on Time: Plan to arrive at the imaging facility on time for your appointment. This allows for necessary paperwork and preparation before the scan.

By following these guidelines and preparing accordingly, you can help ensure a smooth and successful cervical spine MRI experience.

What to Expect During a Cervical MRI?

1. You lie comfortably on a motorized table that slides into a tunnel-like machine.

2. Remain still throughout the procedure to ensure clear images.

3. The MRI machine creates loud banging noises as it generates detailed images using strong magnetic fields and radio waves.

4. Earplugs or headphones may be provided to minimize the noise.

5. In some cases, a contrast dye may be injected into a vein to enhance the visibility of certain structures.

6. The entire procedure typically lasts between 30 to 60 minutes.

7. You can communicate with the technologist through an intercom.

8. Once imaging is complete, you can resume your normal activities without any downtime.

There are usually no side effects from the MRI scan itself.

How long does an MRI take?

A cervical MRI scan takes 30-45 minutes to complete. However, the total appointment time maybe 40-60 minutes to account for screening questionnaires, IV placement if contrast dye is used, and proper positioning for the exam.


If you are experiencing persistent or severe neck pain, don't let it disrupt your life any longer. Schedule your cervical MRI with GetScanned today for a thorough evaluation and clear diagnosis.

Schedule your Neck MRI with GetScanned today!

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
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How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

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A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

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