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 . I’ll 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,17 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 is extremely painful but superficial, and a carbuncle … well, it’s just a super zit, basically. If you can’t diagnose that one on your own, I can’t help you!
Bornholm disease is a crazy viral disease with several other intimidating names.18 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 can’t breathe, you should look into this. The infection is temporary. It’s an extremely unlikely diagnosis.
Temporal arteritis can cause neck pain as well as fierce headaches.
Are Chiropractic Neck Pain Adjustments Safe & When Should I Go To A Chiropractor For Neck Pain
A chiropractic adjustment refers to the procedure where a chiropractor applies controlled and sudden force to your spinal joint. In many occasions, the aim of chiropractic adjustments is to help with pain relief – neck or back pain as well as headaches. While it may work for most individuals, in some cases, the patient develops certain complications. One of the adjustment technique chiropractors uses if known as cervical neck manipulation, has raised concern as it can cause serious injury. Stroke is the major concern of chiropractic adjustments in cases where the procedure goes wrong.
When Should You Go For A Chiropractic Neck Adjustment If You Have A Neck Pain
Not all neck pains are worth a visit to the chiropractor. Occasionally, you may wake up with a stiff neck and it really hurts to turn your head. Such kind of neck pain will subside within a few days and you can go on with life normally. But then again, if you have a constant neck pain that does not seem to go away, then you might want to consider seeing a specialist for a way forward. If you experience any of the below symptoms, it is wise to go see a chiropractor as soon as possible.
- Constant neck pain or stiffness that is persistent, day in day out. Also, if the neck pain is worse when you wake up in the morning but improves as the day goes by.
- Pain while moving your head in any direction.
- If you need to take pain medication to get through the day, and the neck pain is accompanied by a long-lasting headache.
- You’re worried there is an underlying cause for your neck pain.
- Neck pain after a car accident.
- The neck pain is worse when you wake up in the morning but improves as the day goes by.
In addition to that, if you have tried various home remedies – massage, heat/cold packs therapy, adopting a good posture, and nothing seems to work, your neck pains may be worse than you expected and may need to seek professional help.
Treatment For Neck Trauma At Dignity Health Central California Ers
Initial treatment for a neck injury may include rest and icing the affected area. If the injury is mild but causes discomfort, your doctor may recommend medicine for pain and inflammation, along with physical therapy. For more severe neck injuries, bracing or surgery may be required.
In the event of a severe neck injury, call 911 and follow these first aid steps:
- Do not remove a helmet.
- Apply direct pressure to a bleeding wound, but do not change the position of the neck.
- Do not move the person unless absolutely necessary.
- Do not attempt to remove an object lodged in the wound.
- Do not pick up a child or straighten their neck — help them stay still until help arrives.
- Monitor breathing and pulse.
- Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation if necessary and continue until help arrives.
For information about how to prevent a head injury, Find a Doctor online at Dignity Health Central California.
Dignity Health Central California provides reliable emergency services to treat a neck injury in Bakersfield, Merced, San Andreas, and Stockton, CA.
When To See A Doctor About That Incredibly Frustrating Stiff Neck
A stiff neck can make you miss things you often take for granted, like the ability to smoothly turn your head to, say, watch an adorable puppy bound past. With a stiff neck, you’re stuck doing a rigid full-body swivel, like an alien who can almost act human, but not quite, and is on earth to study the canine species.
The good news is that having a stiff neck usually isn’t a big deal. Sometimes, though, it’s a sign you should head to a doctor for evaluation. Here’s what you need to know.
The human head weighs around 10 to 12 pounds. That’s heavier than most newborns, FYI, and it’s up to your neck to support that weight. “It’s almost like a bowling ball sitting on top of a bowling pin,” Alan S. Hilibrand, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with the Rothman Institute who specializes in spine issues, tells SELF.
So, how does your neck, or if you want to be fancy about it, your , bear this load? It all comes down to its structure.
Your neck is mostly comprised of seven interlocking bones , with space behind them for your spinal cord. If you love pastries, rejoice in the fact that you basically always have some on you: the Mayo Clinic describes each cushiony disc between your vertebrae as being “a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior.” Your vertebrae are also attached to ligaments and tendons that connect them to other structures, including your muscles. All of this together helps you balance your head on your shoulders.
Here’s A Rundown Of The Likely Chain Of Events After You Call 911
For a suspected heart attack, paramedics can often perform initial testing in the ambulance while the patient is en route to the hospital. Image: Thinkstock
Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. If one day that someone is you or a loved one, it may be helpful to know what’s likely to happen, both en route to the hospital and after you arrive.
For starters, always call 911 to be transported via ambulance rather than going by car. Contrary to what you might assume, speed isn’t the only rationale. “If you’re having a heart attack, there are two reasons why you want to be in an ambulance,” says Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. One is that in the unlikely event of cardiac arrest, the ambulance has the equipment and trained personnel to restart your heart. Cardiac arrest, which results from an electrical malfunction that stops the heart’s pumping ability, is fatal without prompt treatment. However, most heart attacks do not cause cardiac arrest, Dr. Kosowsky stresses. “It’s rare, but it’s certainly not a risk you want to take while you’re driving or riding in a car.”
How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Shoulder And Neck Pain
A thorough history and physical examination are usually adequate to establish the diagnosis for most injuries. However, your doctor may do a series of tests, depending on the cause of your injury, the location of your pain, or your other symptoms. The list is extensive and may include X-rays, an electrocardiogram , blood tests, and CT scans.
- X-rays: These may be done if you have tenderness to touch along the bony areas of your spine or shoulder, a history of significant trauma, deformity of the area, or your doctor suspects a condition related to your heart or lungs.
A treatment plan will be developed after a complete history and physical examination . Treatment options vary for each condition. Clearly, a simple strain is treated far differently than a heart attack.
Sharp Stabbing And Shooting Neck Pains Are Usually False Alarms
Sharp neck pain is not in itself a red flag. Believe it or not there is no common worrisome cause of neck pain that is indicated by a sharp quality. In fact, oddly, sharp pains are actually a bit reassuring, despite how they feel. In isolation — with no other obvious problem — they usually indicate that you just have a temporary, minor source of irritation in the cervical spine. Serious causes of neck pain like infections, tumours, and spinal cord problems tend to grind you down with throbbing pains, not “stab” you.
Sharp, shooting pains are mostly neurological false alarms about relatively trivial musculoskeletal troubles: your brain reacting over-protectively to real-but-trivial irritations in and around the spine. The brain takes these much more seriously than it really needs to, but evolution has honed us to be oversensitive in this way. That’s not to say that the brain is always over-reacting, but it usually is. Most of the time, a sharp pain is a warning you can ignore.
Pain Radiates To Shoulders And Causes Numbness Or Weakness:
Neck pain is hard enough to handle on its own, but it is even worse when it moves to the shoulders and causes muscle numbness or weakness. This pain can be debilitating, and treatment is needed to begin the healing process. A primary care doctor can prescribe oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, which should reduce the pain and alleviate the numbness. Also, the patient might need to wear a soft cervical collar to keep the neck in place.
For What Kinds Of Neck Pain Should I Seek Medical Attention
Dr. Robert Kaniecki answers the question: ‘Neck Pain That Requires A Doctor?’
Neck Pain That Requires A Doctor?
? — Question: For What Kinds Of Neck Pain Should I Seek Medical Attention?
Answer: Neck pain is a very common problem, and certainly one that is more common in patients who have had injuries to the head or neck, or certain occupations — those individuals involved with dentistry, medicine, mechanics — so ones that involve certain neck positioning for extended periods of time. So neck pain’s fairly common.
What drives one to seek attention for it would be a number of things. One, should this neck pain be progressively worsening over time; is it something that was mild, now is becoming moderate to severe? Does it interfere with your function, are you finding you’re needing to lie down during the course of the day, that you need to miss work because of the neck pain. But these features are not all that common with neck pain, most people kind of tough it out.
Learn Causes And Treatment Options For Persistent Neck Pain
Just like back pain affects many people, neck pain is something that millions of Americans will experience at some point in their lives too. Neck pain can cause plenty of trouble as well, from a stiff neck to severe, even debilitating discomfort.
A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Everyday activities are usually to blame, including bending over a desk for hours, having poor posture while watching TV or lifting something heavy and sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
“When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving it, especially turning to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck,” says Timothy Peppers, MD, a at Scripps Clinic Encinitas and at Scripps Medical Center Jefferson in Oceanside. “The cause of the pain may be obvious if it starts right away, such as after falling while playing a sport.”
In most cases, neck pain and stiffness go away naturally within a week or so with some self-help treatment. Neck pain that persists for a long period may be a sign of a more serious condition that requires medical attention, Dr. Peppers says.
Self-help treatment options for minor neck pain
When there may be an underlying condition
Pain that persists for a long period may be a sign of an underlying condition affecting the cervical spine, which helps support and move the neck.
Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease
When to see your physician or spine specialist
When to consider spine surgery
Several More Specific Red Flags For Neck Pain: A Checklist
Check all that apply. Most people will not be able to check many of these, let alone all of them. But the more you can check, the more worthwhile it is to ask your doctor for some input. Most people who check off an item or two will turn out not to have an ominous health issue. But red flags are reasons to check… not reasons to worry.
If You Have These Symptoms You May Require Emergency Care
Lower back pain, which can occur anywhere from your rib cage to your buttocks, is often the result of lifting, reaching, twisting and stretching. Upper and middle back pain, in most cases, does get better with time and rest. If your back pain is unrelenting and not relieved by rest, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care:
Signs That It Is Time To Go To The Doctor For Neck Pain
Sometimes, neck pain responds to self-care that includes heat, ice, and rest. Other times, though, treatment is needed. If you are dealing with neck pain and unsure if you need to visit a doctor, then there are more severe symptoms keep in mind. Anyone dealing with the following symptoms should contact their primary care practitioner or walk into an Urgent Care facility:
- Muscle spasms in the neck
- Neck pain that gets worse
- Neck pain that continues to linger
- If you injure your neck
- Pain moves from the neck to the shoulders, causing numbness or weakness
- Flu-like symptoms when your back aches
Should You Visit The Emergency Department For Back Pain
People with pain expect to leave the emergency department with some relief of their pain, and they are frequently disappointed. Getting good help for chronic pain is not what the ED is designed to do. Even if your back, neck or other pain is severe, there’s only a small chance that it’s a medical emergency.
A checklist for visiting the ED:
- Did you have an accident or trauma?
- Have you been ill or had recent surgery?
- Do you have unsafe practices like IV drug use?
- Do you have unexplained fever?
- Do you have dizziness, nausea or vomiting?
- Are your legs weak, numb or unable to move?
If the answer to these questions is no, even if your back pain is very severe, you probably won’t benefit from an emergency room visit.
When To Seek Immediate Medical Attention For Neck Pain
For most neck pain, it’s okay to try self-care strategies before seeking medical help. However, if your neck pain is so severe you can’t sit still, or if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, contact a medical professional right away:
Fever, headache, and neck stiffness. This triad of symptoms might indicate bacterial meningitis, an infection of the spinal cord and brain covering that requires prompt treatment with antibiotics.
Pain traveling down one arm, especially if the arm or hand is weak, numb, or tingling. This might indicate that a herniated cervical disc is pressing on a nerve.
Loss of bowel or bladder control. This might indicate pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, needing immediate attention.
Extreme instability. If you can suddenly tilt your head forward or back much farther than usual, it might indicate a fracture or torn ligaments. This usually occurs only after significant impact or injury, and is more likely to be detected by your doctor or on an x-ray than by your own perception.
Persistent swollen glands in the neck. Infection or a tumor can cause swollen glands and neck pain.
Chest pain or pressure. A heart attack or inflamed heart muscle can cause neck pain along with more classic heart symptoms.
For additional tips on preventing neck pain as well as ways to treat and cure it, read Neck Pain, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
How Long Do I Need To See A Chiropractor For Neck Pain
Your chiropractic treatment plan will depend on your particular situation. Patients who experience neck pain due to auto accidents, sports injuries or arthritis may need long-term care, whereas patients who experience neck pain from postural issues or a pinched nerve may only need short-term care.
The best way to determine your length of care is to see a chiropractor for x-rays, palpations and a consultation.
If you experience neck pain, discomfort or stiffness, call us at or request an appointment online.
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
When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For A Headache
You may have a headache emergency if you are experiencing the following:
- severe headache with sudden onset
- headache pain that feels like an explosion or thunderclap
- severe headache that is clearly your worst-ever headache
- headache pain that is becoming worse and won’t go away
- persistent headache after an injury to the head
- headache accompanied by any of these symptoms: a stiff neck, severe pain when bending over, confusion, convulsions, loss of consciousness, or persistent, severe vomiting
There are many different types and causes of headaches. Some are caused by stress or a lack of nutrition. Others are migraines or life-threatening conditions. Some headaches get better with over-the-counter medications, dim lighting and a quiet space.
If those treatments do not work and your pain worsens or lasts longer than usual, you should go to the emergency room visit for pain relief and testing. Some headaches require an immediate visit to the ER.
Go to the ER right away if you have:
- the worst headache of your life
- headache with numbness or tingling
- headache with high uncontrolled blood pressure
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may need immediate treatment. If you are concerned about any type of headache, the emergency room is always available.
When it comes to headaches, you should go to the emergency room for what doctors consider red flag symptoms. For example:
Seeking An Explanation: Will You Get Scans And Tests
If you go to emergency, you may have blood and urine tests, because they’re a good way to rule out anything nasty. They can quickly detect markers that tell doctors if you are fighting an infection, or there’s a significant change to any of the systems that keep you alive, and if that’s why you’re hurting. They are there to rule out an emergency.
People almost always expect that they will get a scan or x-ray. The expectation that these tests will explain your pain, and why it’s severe today is not correct. Unless you’ve had a fall, a car accident, or some other trauma, or there are red flag symptoms present, you likely won’t get scans, and probably won’t gain much from a trip to the ED.
Emergency departments have limited resources, like MRI scanners, and they need to be available for emergencies. If someone comes into the ED with a possible stroke, and the scanner is being used by someone with back pain, there’s a 30-60 minute wait for someone who is in a life and death situation.
What scans and x-rays tell doctors about pain is usually minimal. It’s unusual for someone with back pain to have something that’s found on a scan that changes the treatment and advice we usually give people.
What Should You Do Advice From A Physical Therapist
It’s unusual to have a Physical Therapist in the Emergency Department. PT’s are good at listening, explaining pain and helping you to problem solve what to do at home.
When I see people in the ED, this is what I suggest:
In the absence of trauma or true neurological loss there aren’t many good reasons to go to the emergency room.
Trauma doctors are not trained in pain management, and with the opioid medication situation causing them to prescribe more cautiously than they used to, there is a good chance you will still leave with your pain unchanged.
You’re Experiencing The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Dr. Rodriguez says he’s seen a 40% decrease in heart attack patients seeking care in the emergency room, despite the symptoms of a heart attack signaling a medical emergency.
According to the American Heart Association, heart attack symptoms in both men and women include pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, jaw, neck, or stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; sweating; or lightheadedness. It should be noted, however, that men typically experience the standard chest pain or discomfort, while women more often experience other, sometimes more flu-like symptoms.
What Are The Complications Of Neck And Back Pain
Loss or productivity: Back pain is the most common reason for disability in working adults.
Nerve damage: If your back pain is from a herniated disc, 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 a person’s life: work, physical exercise, social activities, and sleep. The anxiety and stress caused by the change in mobility and pain can lead to depression.
Weight gain: Loss of mobility and inability to exercise can lead to weight gain and the loss of muscle strength.
It is a good idea to see a health care provider if you have numbness or tingling, or if your pain is severe and does not improve with medication and rest. If you have difficulty urinating, weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs, fever, or unintentional weight loss, you should call your health care provider right away.
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 patient’s diagnosis.