Pain in my neck. How can I tell if it is tendonitis?

by Amy

Does tendonitis show up on MRI's?

I haven't had one yet. Not sure why I have neck pain.

I have been to a Chiro and physical therapist. A neurologist put me on anti-inflamatories which really aren't helping much with the pain and muscle relaxers.

My pain has stayed pretty level for the past two months and I am thinking it may be tendonitis.

Would pain from tendonitis last this long with the treatments I listed above?


Hi Amy.

1. An X-ray won't show Tendonitis, but an MRI can be a useful way to get an idea about the location and severity of Tenonitis injury.

It's not a great view, usually more indicates swelling and inflammation. It can show tears and rips, but it's tougher to identify Tendonitis tendon damage.

2. Tendonitis pain can definitely last 2 months or two decades with those treatment methods.

Sometimes Chiro and PT can help you heal out of Tendonitis, sometimes not. It depends on the exact source and flavor of your neck Tendinitis.

3. Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants I give a big thumbs down to, especially the muscle relaxers.

Ibuprofen is fine for temporary pain relief, but not for actual healing.

So those are the short answers to your questions.

I need more information for more answers.

What happened to your neck? Car accident? Fall off a horse? Boxing?

Approximately how old are you?

Have you had other injuries?

Did you neck pain just show up out of the blue?

Curious minds want to know.....

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Jul 17, 2009
PART 2 - Pain in my neck. How can I tell if it is tendonitis?
by: Amy

I was in an accident about a 1 and half years ago.

I only saw a Chiro and had no physical therapy.

My pain went away, but came back 3 months ago.

The physical therapy has helped a little, but I stopped the Chiro adjustments because they didn't seem to be doing anything. Both PT and neurologist think this is a muscle problem. I have no damage to my discs and no arthritis or nerve damage. I don't have a curve in my neck, but I don't think I had one before the accident either. Neurologist is doing blood tests to rule out other issues.

I am only 26 and have never had any physical pain or broken bones or sore muscles that lasted more than a day or two.

My symptoms are similiar to that of tendonitis so that is why I am wondering what tests can be done to see if I have it and what I can do to help it go away.


Joshua Comments:

Well Amy, unless there's something you're not telling me, I'm going with that you have Whiplash.

What is Whiplash? Go to the above link and find out.

Your description of your experience is exactly how it goes - car accident, neck pain, pain goes away, pain comes back, various therapies that work to some degree or not, wondering why the pain won't go away, then worried about a serious and/or mysterious problem.

I make the case that whiplash essentially is, or at least turns into, tendonitis of the neck, because of the Pain Causing Dynamic.

So yes. If you have whiplash, then you have tendonitis. Not from an overuse injury, but as a result of injury.

Reverse the dynamic, get rid of the pain.

Whiplash is a bit more complex because of all the real estate of the cervical spine and attached tissue, and the actual rip and tear damage that does/can happen in the forced movements of a whiplash neck injury.

Tell me more about your symptoms, and let's see if they are whiplash symptoms, which are essentially the same as symptoms of tendonitis.

Do you have whiplash headache? (just a fancy term for headache caused by a whiplash dynamic)

When do you have pain?

How bad is it?

What makes it worse or better?

Jul 17, 2009
Part 3 - Pain in my neck. How can I tell if it is tendonitis?
by: Anonymous

I got headaches a few weeks ago, but they have since gone away.

They would start at the back of my head where my neck meets my head and then work their way up until my head feels like it was going to explode.

My main pain now is when I keep my head still and then I move it slightly I have a lot of tension on the sides and front of my neck. Even if I keep my head still the tension is there.

I have no pain when doing the PT stretches or exercises and I full mobility of my neck. There is tension in the upper part and lower part in the back of my neck. It almost feels like someone is twisting my muscles.

My pain has not moved or really changed since it came three months ago.

I feel relief for about a minute maybe a little more after I do the PT stretches and exercises, but the tension keeps coming back.

I have not seen a change while taking the anti-inflammers so I stopped taking them.

My blood tests came back and showed no problems.

Jul 17, 2009
PART 4 - Pain in my neck. How can I tell if it is tendonitis?
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Ok Amy, from what you've said, it sounds like you have Whiplash Tendonitis.

Whiplash -

1. high velocity movements causes rip and tear of cervical ligament (and can be down the back too), tendon attachments, and connective tissue.

2. The nervous system when trying to stabilize and protect you through the sudden high velocity movements contracts your muscles as fast and as tight as possible in an attempt to hold your head, but contracting muscles and even stronger forces opposing that contraction pulls tissue apart.

3. The nervous system freaks out, starts an inflammation process and Pain Causing Dynamic, and tightens everything up to 'guard' and protect you in the future.

Tendonitis -

1. Injured connective tissue.

2. Inflammation and Pain Causing Dynamic releases pain enhancing chemical and tightens muscle.

3. The nervous system tries to protect you from more pain with....inflammation and tightness.

So when you are moving your head, things feel better because you are getting circulation, tissue 'warms up', and a lot of other things are happening in there.

Then you stop moving...and when you hold still...everything tightens up.

And tightens up more. And tightens up more. When you are still, relaxing, or sleeping at night, your muscles don't relax because they are PROTECTING you from pain by hanging on as tight as they can to stabilize you. Plus your tissue is full of Pain Enhancing Chemical.

Imagine that your muscles are boa constrictors, squeezing, more and more.

This is not a very smart system, but it's how our bodies work.

The Headaches

Sounds like tension headaches, common with whiplash.

Muscles in the neck and what you describe at the back of the head get tight, stay tight, and get increasingly tighter. The more you hurt, the tighter they get.

When the suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull get tight, they squeeze off the vertebral arteries at the base of your skull, restricting blood flow and actually pulling on the connective tissue that wraps around the brain.

Hello headache.

So does that make sense so far, why it feels like there is constant tightness, and increasing tightness, and why exercise helps only for a few minutes?

Jul 18, 2009
PART 5 - Does Tendonitis go away
by: Amy

With physical therapy and exercises does whiplash Tendonitis eventually go away?


Joshua Comments:

This will likely turn into a long answer to you yes/no question....

Unfortunately, there's no black and white answer.. It depends on a variety of factors.

But I'm going to go to the simple end of the spectrum.

Whiplash, when left to it's own devices, just doesn't heal back to a good as new.

In my experience and observations of a decade of providing therapeutic massage, it is my opinion that physical therapy and exercises don't help your body heal completely.

When done right they can help make the neck healthier and thus less pain, but if the core factors of scar tissue structure and deep chronic inflammation aren't dealt with immediately, whiplash injury heals into whiplash tendonitis, and that can last for decades and forever.

I've worked on plenty of 60 year olds that were in a car accident in their teens and twenties and still have recurring bouts of neck pain.

The body is always trying to help, so pain will go away for a while, but the neck structure is constantly getting tighter, less range of motion, and more 'dense'. This all equals more eventual pain and problem.

Here's my complaint with PT and stretching and strengthening a whiplash injury (or any tendonitis injury):

If you have a frayed steel cable, and put a lot of tension and pull on it, that is going to break and fray more fibers. This doesn't help an injury heal.

The nervous system doesn't like broken fibers. So it doesn't like you putting more pull on injured or irritated tissue. It's response = more pain and more tightness.

Having said that, exercising muscles creates more circulation, and this gets pain enhancing chemical out and new blood in.

This helps, but the core little spot(s) of broken fibers and constantly tearing scar tissue fibers continue to create the whiplash Tendonitis dynamic of slowly increasing pain and tightness.

(Continued in PART 6)

Jul 18, 2009
PART 6 - Pain In My neck. Does Tendonitis Go Away?
by: The Tendonitis Expert

(Continued from PART 5)

So what do you do about all this?

My top suggestions are to see an experienced, skilled whiplash massage therapist in your area, and/or work on it yourself.

Ultimately, your recovery is fastest when you do your own daily self care. The right professionals can help, but you can help them be even more effective if you follow my suggestions below.

And, if you only do the self care at home, you can go a LONG, LONG way towards getting out of pain yourself.

Here's my short Whiplash Tendonitis home self care suggestions.

1. Heavy ice packs, which can include big packs of frozen corn (I don't like using frozen peas, they start to smell like peas when they're halfway thawed...) or even frozen water bottles.

Apply to the neck 5 minutes on, 5-10 off, every day, as often as possible, intensively, for 7 days. Do this while watching a movie, hanging out, at work, etc. Lay on it, or lay it on your neck.

Cover as much real estate as possible, and get it into the neck with as much pressure as possible

I am 100% positive that if you do this your pain levels will drop significantly.

Step #1 is reducing your acute chronic inflammation process.

2. You'll have to play with this part, and/or have a friend/family member/partner play with this.

Reach back and start massaging the neck.

Superficial levels at first, then start digging your fingers in. Feel around. Explore. If it hurts, lighten up a little until you can go in deeper.

You will find a whole world of sensation in there. Better spots, worse spots, super tender spots, sharp hot spots, tightness, soft spots, bone, etc.

Think about it like rubbing a dry crunchy gunk filled sponge until it is a soft, squishy sponge.

I'm not going to get real high tech here. You just want/need to get in there and explore, and then keep at it.

If you keep at it, icing and massaging a little bit regularly and frequently, you will move your whiplash tendonitis along the spectrum from where it's at, to a better, 'healthier' spot.

This can be a little tough on your fingers, and the positioning is a bit awkward, but it's worth it.

The key is DO IT, and KEEP AT IT.

And, ya know, it's free and you can do it at home.

Oh, also, the actual question was "Does Tendonitis Go Away?"

The answer is basically 'No'. In rare cases it will.

Usually it just looks like it goes away because pain levels drop, but the mechanism is at work, slowly changing in a Downward Spiral of increasing tightness and eventual increasing pain.

On it's own the body just doesn't automatically heal back to a pre-injury state unless you help it.

Ask more questions. Get more answers.

Jul 19, 2009
Reply to part 6
by: Amy

I have read the part of your web site about treating tendonitis with the ice packs and massage. I am also continuing my PT exercises. After 1 and 1/2 days I have noticed a slight improvement. I plan to keep it up. Thanks for the tips.

With tendonitis when the pain does go away how do I keep it from coming back?

Do people have to do the ice/massage every day/week forever even when the pain is gone?
Or just before working out?
Or whenever the pain comes back?

May 05, 2015
very helpful
by: Anonymous

Thanks! I will try.

Apr 12, 2016
Same symptoms same circumstance please help
by: Lauren

Hi there I have exactly the same symptoms, I was in a car accident and had whip lash and have had headaches for around 3 years constantly, sometimes bad but others kind of in the background if you get what I mean.

I will be trying what you suggested as I've had physio (it made it worse) I've had a cortisone injection (it made it worse) I've tried amatryptilin (no change) but I was also wondering would a constant tension headache cause teeth grinding too, I have a splint made from my dentist as they said my grinding was causing my headaches but I think my grinding is a result of my headaches not the cause.

Please help.


Joshua Commments:

Hi Lauren.

Yes, headaches can cause grinding. And grinding can cause headaches.

It's all about tension.

Read this thread and follow the links in it, including this one: Magnesium For Tendonitis

May 07, 2017
Back/neck ongoing pain.
by: Wendy

Hi there.

I have similar symptoms but had a a client who is a child weighing 34 kg and has a brain injury jump/sit on my thoracic back area (round shoulder blades) I felt fine for 3 days after then experienced acute neck pain which stopped me driving and became very inflamed/ stiff.

The day after the same child came to me while I was sitting on the ground and pushed me whilst hugging me around the neck, so i I tried to bend to the floor so he could hop off but instead he jumped and his body fully slid over my injured neck.

3 months on still having stiffness, trigger point pains, back pain and headaches after chiropractic and physio. X-rays showed scoliosis but no broken/ fractured bones, pain intense and headaches.

Thinking I may have tendonitis?

It's very confusing, I am able to do house work with out pain but it's followed by pain. After rest I'm so tensed up and it's hard to get out of bed.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Wendy.

Well, you surely have all the factors of tendonitis (too tight muscle and connective tissue, inflammation process, and nutritional insufficiency keeping your structures from being able to work correctly), but I wouldn't call it tendonitis per se.

It sounds like the kid caused your brain to send a 'guard and protect' signal tightening up all the muscles in the area, very possibly pulling one ore more vertebrae into subluxation, and now you can't relax/get back to normal.

Partly that's lack of nutrition (see the 'Magnesium for tendonitis' link in the previous comment), partly that's (probably) subluxation where you're stuck out of alignment and that's sending a pain/problem signal to the brain (that response with more 'guard and protect' signal).

I'd see a really good chiropractor or osteopath and make sure you're 'in alignment'.

May 09, 2017
by: Wendy

Thank you for your advice. I am being referred to a specialist so hopefully they will follow up and investigate on the alignment :)

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