When Neck Cracking And Popping Needs Medical Attention
If your crepitus neck is accompanied by any of the following factors, you should seek the advice of your doctor as it may be indicative of a more serious issue.
Pain and/or swelling. This may indicate the presence of inflammation and osteoarthritis.
Recent injury. If your crepitus occurs after a recent accident of injury, it may mean that there has been damage to the structure of you neck.
Frequent or constant. If the cracking and grinding noise can be recreated every time you move your head/neck, then it may be telling of an issue with joint function.
Recent surgery. After surgery on the cervical spine, crepitus may occur weeks later. While these new sounds may not mean anything serious, it is important to inform your surgeon so they can assess your symptoms.
When Is Headache And Neck Pain Serious
Immediate medical attention is advised in neck pain and headache associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain and numbness radiating down one or both arms
- Stiff neck with high fever and/or headache
- Headache triggered by coughing, sneezing, running, bending, straining with a bowel movement, or Valsalva maneuver
- Seizures, slurred speech, loss of balance and blurry vision
- Unintended weight loss or nausea
These symptoms may indicate serious underlying conditions such as aneurysms, meningitis, stroke, or tumor. Neck pain as a result of trauma to the base of the skull must be considered as an emergency and treated without delay.
Foreign Object In Ear
Getting something stuck in your ear that shouldnt be there can cause varying degrees of pain behind the ear. The foreign object could even cause an ear infection to develop which can then cause ear and neck pain.
Dr. Kenneth Buccino on eMedicineHealth says that pieces of food, beads, insects and even an accumulation of earwax can cause discomfort in the ear. Pain in the ear is usually the most common symptom. However, coughing, bleeding, or nausea can also accompany ear pain in the affected ear.12
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When Should I Call My Doctor
- You have neck pain and shooting pain down your arms or legs.
- Your neck pain suddenly becomes severe.
- You have neck pain along with numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs.
- You have a stiff neck, a headache, and a fever.
- You have new or worsening symptoms.
- Your symptoms continue even after treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
What Are Possible Complications Of Neck And Back Pain
Complications of back and neck pain may include:
- Loss of productivity. Back pain is the most common reason for disability in working adults.
- Nerve damage. If your back pain is from a herniated disk, pressure on the spinal nerves may cause a variety of problems, such as weakness, numbness, or severe shooting pain that travels from the back to the leg.
- Depression. Back or neck pain can disrupt all aspects of life. This includes work, physical exercise, social activities, and sleep. The anxiety and stress caused by the change in movement and pain can lead to depression.
- Weight gain. Loss of movement and inability to exercise can lead to weight gain and the loss of muscle strength.
It is a good idea to see a healthcare provider if you have numbness or tingling, or if your pain is severe and does not get better with medicine and rest. If you have trouble urinating, weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs, fever, or unintentional weight loss, call your healthcare provider right away.
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What Are The Causes
Neck pain can result from injury, poor posture, stress, natural wear, disease, and other sources. Poor spinal alignment and improper lifting stress the cervical spine and make injuries more likely. Neck pain can result from:
- Injury or trauma: A whiplash injury, sports injury, or fall can strain or tear muscles and ligaments. Fractures can occur.
- Bulging or herniated disc: The gel-like center of a spinal disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the wall and compress nerves.
- Pinched nerve: Compression of a spinal nerve as it leaves the canal can cause pain to travel down the arm into the hands or fingers. Pinched nerve pain differs from carpal tunnel syndrome, which usually involve numbness.
- Osteoarthritis : As discs naturally age they dry out and shrink bone spurs can form. These changes lead to stenosis or disc herniation.
- Stenosis: Narrowing of the bony canals in the spine can compress the cord and nerves, causing them to swell and inflame.
Most Common Causes Of Chronic Neck Pain
The most common causes of chronic neck pain are muscle strain and nerve compression. Depending on the symptoms youre experiencing, it can be difficult to tell which of these is occurring. Most muscle strain comes from activities that place a lot of uneven strain on one side of your neck. Repetitive lifting is a common cause of muscle strain around the neck, especially if the loads are heavy or if youre using one side of your body to tote heavy loads, like carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder. Sleeping in a weird position or having a pillow that doesnt provide adequate support can also cause muscle strain in your neck.
Nerve compression occurs when one of the nerves around the neck gets pinched or pressed as it leaves your upper spine . When the nerves exit the cervical spine, they travel through your shoulders and down into your arms and hands. If a disc in your cervical spine slips out of place or if the tissues in your neck get swollen and inflamed, the nerves in that area can get squeezed. And that means you can have pain and other symptoms in your neck and anywhere along the path of that nerve.
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What Are Common Neck Pain Causes
Neck pain tends to peak in middle age, and is slightly more common in women and in patients with a family history of neck pain, says NYC-based interventional pain physician and physiatrist, Benjamin Bonte, MD. Smokers, patients with psychological diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, and patients with a sedentary lifestyle are also more at risk.
Neck pain is most common in people over the age of 50. But beyond good old aging, the causes of neck pain are as varied as the list is long. Speaking of heres a list of some of the more common causes of neck pain:
- Injury and Accidents:
- Whiplash is a common neck injury sustained when the head is forced to move backward and/or forward beyond the normal range of motion. The unnatural and rapid movement of the neck affects the muscles and ligaments, which tighten and contract. This creates muscle fatigue resulting in pain and stiffness. Whiplash is most commonly sustained due to a car accident, but can also result from traumas such as a fall or a sports accident.
- Nerve Compression: When a nerve becomes compressed, it can cause pain that moves up into the head, behind the eyes, into the jaw, down the arms, says Dr. Penhollow. Herniated discs are the most common cause of nerve compression and spinal stenosis , but bone spurs can also compress nerves.
The most common types of neck pain.
There are different neck pain profiles. Some people experience only one type, while others experience a combination.
How Are Bone Spurs In The Neck Diagnosed
To diagnose a bone spur in the neck, a doctor will first perform a physical exam. They may ask you questions about any symptoms you have and test the range of motion of your neck. A bone spur on the neck may be confirmed via imaging tests, such as:
- magnetic resonance imaging
The tests can also help diagnose underlying causes, such as OA.
Your doctor may also recommend an electroconductive test to help detect nerve injuries in your spinal cord. Blood testing may also be ordered to rule out the possibility of other underlying diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment for bone spurs depends on the severity of your symptoms and overall condition.
More mild cases may be treated with one or more of the following options:
- physical therapy to increase range of motion
- massage therapy to help manage pain
In more severe cases where symptoms dont respond to therapy and medication, a doctor may recommend cervical spine surgery.
The type of surgery for neck bone spurs will vary based on the underlying cause and location some examples include:
- spinal fusion to seal two or more vertebrae back together
- anterior cervical discectomy to remove spurs and discs through the front of your neck
- anterior cervical corpectomy to remove and replace vertebrae when bone spurs cant be eliminated via discectomy
- posterior cervical laminectomy to remove the lamina on the back of your neck and help get rid of bone spurs that may be pressing on spinal nerves
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Miscellaneous Medical Causes Of Neck Pain That Might Mean You Can Stop Worrying About Something Worse
This section presents a comprehensive list of somewhat common medical problems that can cause neck pain . Ill give you a quick idea of what they are and what distinguishes them. If you find anything on this list that seems awfully similar to your case, please bring the idea to your doctor like a dog with an interesting bone and get a referral to a specialist if necessary.
Important! None of these are dangerous! Although some are quite unpleasant. Reading about medical problems on the Internet can easily freak us out,13 so the goal here is to identify possible causes of neck pain that are not so scary. If you can get a positive ID on one of these conditions, then you get to stop worrying about the threat of something worse.
Some skin problems on the neck can cause neck pain, but are usually obvious most people will identify them as skin problems on the neck and not a neck problem affecting the skin. Herpes zoster causes a painful rash, cellulitis is extremely painful but superficial, and a carbuncle well, its just a super zit, basically. If you cant diagnose that one on your own, I cant help you!
Bornholm disease is a crazy viral disease with several other intimidating names.14 It feels like a vice-grip on the chest and lungs, is intensely painful, and sometimes also causes neck pain. If you feel like you cant breathe, you should look into this. The infection is temporary. Its an extremely unlikely diagnosis.
And one more important one
What Happens After Traction
If youre treated with traction, youll probably need to participate in an inpatient or an outpatient treatment program. These programs often consist of physical and occupational therapy to help you regain your strength and relearn skills that may have been affected by your injury. A therapist can also teach you new skills to compensate for any pain, weakness, or paralysis you may have experienced as a result of being injured.
The first few days after traction is performed can be difficult. The muscles are often weak since you must spend a lot of time in bed after traction is performed. Moving around and walking may be challenging and can make you tired. However, its important to stick with any rehabilitation program so that you can improve your chances of making a complete recovery.
There are risks involved in all surgical procedures. These risks include:
- an adverse reaction to the anesthesia
- excessive bleeding
- an infection of the pin site
- damage to the surrounding tissue
- nerve injury or vascular injury from too much weight being applied
Its important to contact your doctor if:
- the prescribed medications arent relieving your pain
- the skin around the pin site becomes red, hot, or swollen
- theres drainage
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What Is Back And Neck Pain
Back pain can range from a mild, dull, annoying ache to persistent, severe, disabling pain. Pain in your back can limit your ability to move. It can interfere with normal functioning and quality of life. Always talk with your healthcare provider if you have persistent pain.
Neck pain occurs in the area of the cervical vertebrae in your neck. Because of its location and range of motion, your neck is often left unprotected and at risk for injury.
Pain in your back or neck area can come on suddenly and intensely. Chronic pain lasts for weeks, months, or even years. The pain can be constant or come and go.
Neck Cracking And Popping Complications
While medical literature assures us that the repeated cracking of any synovial jointsâincluding the neckâwill not increase the risk of arthritis, it may cause other complications. In rare instances, manipulation of the cervical spine may cause vertebral artery dissection that can result in a stroke.
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What Causes Or Increases My Risk For Chronic Neck Pain
Chronic neck pain is often caused by a joint or disc problem in the neck. Any of the following can cause neck pain:
- Stenosis of your spinal column, or degeneration or inflammation of the discs in your neck
- Inflammation from a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, or rotator cuff tendinitis
- A condition that affects neck to arm nerves, such as thoracic outlet syndrome or brachial neuritis
- A fracture of a neck bone that causes nerve damage
What Do I Need To Know About Neck Anatomy
You dont need to memorize the physiology and anatomy of your neck to improve its function and reduce pain, but its helpful to have a general understanding of your cervical spine.
Neck mobility is matchless. Although you wont get any Exorcist-style head spinning, it is capable of moving the head in many directions: 90° of flexion , 90° of extension , 180° of rotation , and almost 120° of tilt to either shoulder.
But all that mobility comes at the cost of complexity. First youve got your seven vertebrae , each cushioned by an intervertebral disc and connected by facet joints. There are also 32 muscles, plus the tendons that attach them to bones, that help move and stabilize the neck, as well as a number of ligaments attaching bones to each other. Thats a lot of action in a comparatively small area.
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Headaches Caused By A Neck Problem
Headaches stemming from a neck problem are usually chronic and vary in type depending on the cause. Common examples include:
- Cervicogenic headache . CGH usually begins as a dull ache in the neck and radiates upward along the back of the head, almost always affecting just one side. Pain may also spread to the forehead, temple, and area around the eyes and/or ears. CGH is caused due to an underlying disc, joint, muscle, or nerve disorder in the neck.
Neck Pain On The Left Side Is Not A Thing To Ignore
Proper diagnosis and treatment are required to cure it. While rare, undiagnosed or untreated neck pain can elevate to a permanent disability. Neck pain is not something you have to live with- even if you may consider the pain relatively mild. Don’t let pain affect your quality of life, and get help with a compassionate specialist.
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Unusual Persistent Neck Pain
With a cervical artery dissection, the neck pain is unusual, persistent, and often accompanied by a severe headache, says Dr. Rost. The neck pain from a carotid artery tear often spreads along the side of the neck and up toward the outer corner of the eye. A vertebral artery tear may feel like something sharp is stuck in the base of your skull. If you experience such pain especially if you also have stroke symptoms such as dizziness, double vision, jerky eye movements, unsteadiness while walking, or slurred speech call 911 immediately.
The Treatment For Neck Pain Depends On The Cause
The good news is that there are lots of treatment options for neck pain! Several analgesics can be used, including over-the-counter or prescription medication for pain and inflammation. In cases of muscle spasms, medical providers can prescribe muscle relaxants if they deem it appropriate. Heat, massage and gentle stretching can also alleviate many cases of musculoskeletal neck pain. Patients with more complex causes of neck pain are often referred to a specialist, who can discuss treatment options depending on the patients diagnosis.
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How Are Back And Neck Pain Treated
In many cases, acute back or neck pain may simply improve with some rest. Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also help with the discomfort. Try to move gently during this period, so that you won’t become stiff and lose mobility.
If you have chronic pain of your back and neck, try several remedies before considering surgery. These include:
- Hot or cold packs as advised by your healthcare provider
- Certain exercises to strengthen back and belly muscles and ease pain, such as stretching and flexing. Your healthcare provider can show you these exercises. Physical therapy can also help you find the correct exercises.
- Aerobic exercise may help with your overall fitness and strength.
- Certain anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants may be used, as advised by your provider.
- Sometimes your provider may suggest a brace or corset for extra support.
- Shots for pain relief in the area
- Nerve block. This eases pain signals from the affected nerve.
- Osteopathic manipulation