Thursday, August 11, 2022

When To See A Doctor For Neck Pain

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Pain Gets Worse Or Does Not Go Away:

Neck Pain? Pinched Nerve? When Do You Need a Doctor Immediately

Ice and heat can relieve neck pain in many cases. However, sometimes, the symptoms persist or get worse, even with the appropriate self-care. When the pain gets worse or does not go away within three weeks, it could be due to an underlying medical issue. Also, the patient might be aggravating the muscles and tendons without realizing it. A doctor can determine the source of the pain and help manage the symptoms.

Checking The Sleep Environment

Sometimes, a mattress that is too firm or not supportive enough can cause neck pain. A pillow that is the incorrect size or firmness may also cause a stiff neck.

The head, neck, and back should be in an aligned position during sleep. The pillows that a person uses should suit their sleeping position.

A firmer, larger pillow may work well for side sleepers. Back sleepers may need a flatter pillow that supports the head and neck without forcing them into a forward position.

Relieving Pain Without Surgery

Dr. Miller: Now, what percent of patients actually get better with those conservative treatments?

Dr. Bisson: I would tell you about 90-plus percent patients get better with just those things alone.

Dr. Miller: In a week? Two weeks? A month?

Dr. Bisson: Most patients get better within a few days, but it’s not unreasonable to think that it may take up to two to four weeks to see improvement with those conservative things.

Dr. Miller: So I would think that many of these patients would be best served by seeing their primary care physician or someone like a physical therapist who could help them work through some of the pain issues.

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When Should I Call The Doctor If I Have Neck Pain

Contact your doctor if you have neck pain that interferes with work or other daily activities.

In rare cases, neck pain can be a sign of a medical emergency. Seek urgent medical care if your neck pain:

  • Develops after having an accident.
  • Happens with numbness or tingling in the arms, shoulders or legs.
  • Occurs with weakness in legs or loss of coordination in arms or legs.
  • Includes headache, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Involves loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Arises along with a stiff neck.
  • Occurs with chills, fever, or unexplained weight loss.
  • Stays the same when resting or moving.
  • Does not respond to over-the-counter medications.
  • Does not lessen after one week.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/12/2019.


Causes Of Severe Neck Pain


The neck is vulnerable to injury because its not protected by muscle or bone-like other areas of your body. It also has a lot of motion in all directions, which can cause problems when you lift something or turn your head quickly.

Some common causes of severe neck pain are:

  • Whiplash Injury

Whiplash is a sudden movement of the head that causes stretching of ligaments and muscles in the neck. This injury can result from a car accident or other accident where the head is thrown backward or forward with great force. Whiplash symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, headache, dizziness, and tingling or numbness in the fingers on one side of your body.

  • Muscle Strain

The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain. This type of injury usually occurs when you perform a repetitive movement over and over again without taking breaks throughout the day or performing proper warm-up exercises before exercising or working out. It also happens when you dont stretch properly before engaging in physical activity or sports.

  • Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes inflammation and stiffness in joints throughout the body, including those in the neck area. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects people between the ages of 50 to 60 years old but can occur at any age or sex group if theres enough wear on ones joints from things like obesity.

  • Tumors/Cysts

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Types Of Surgeries For Neck Pain

There are multiple surgeries available that are proven to reduce or eliminate pain in the neck or nerve-related arm/hand pain altogether. Thanks to advanced medical technologies and evidence-based research, spine surgeons have been able to continue to offer procedures that are less invasive, making recovery easier.

Create An Ergonomic Workplace

Ergonomics refers to adjusting a persons workspace, schedule, or responsibilities in response to their individual needs. Basically, ergonomics is about making changes to your job so you can do your work better. Ergonomics is often used to adapt jobs to people with chronic health conditions or disabilities.

Ergonomics can offer several management options and solutions when it comes to neck pain.

These include:

  • Purchasing or requesting a high-quality chair for your office space. An adjustable office chair is ideal.
  • Adjusting your chair into a comfortable position. Make sure to keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees a bit lower than your hips.
  • Using proper posture while sitting. Maintain proper posture by keeping your back straight and your arms level to the desk.
  • Moving your computer so that its at eye level. Make sure you arent craning your neck up or down.
  • Using an adjustable desk or standing desk, if possible. This way you can alternately sit and stand to work. Changing up your position can help lower the strain long hours of sitting has on your body.
  • Using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. This may look like a split keyboard, or a mouse that positions your hand vertically. These changes can improve posture, shoulder cramping, and hand and wrist pain.
  • Standing up to stretch and move every hour. When on a break, try to walk around a little to loosen up.

Oftentimes, ergonomic solutions go hand in hand with a regimen from a physical or occupational therapist.

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Can Neck Pain Be Prevented

The best way to prevent neck pain is to keep your spine flexible and your muscles strong. You can do this with regular exercise 30 minutes on most days. Make sure you take plenty of breaks throughout the day to stretch.

Its important to develop good posture especially when youre sitting, at work or driving. Try not to slouch or to poke your chin out. A supportive pillow is also important to prevent neck pain.

Preparing For The Appointment

Relieve Neck Pain – Ask Doctor Jo

It can be helpful to have identified general information about pain and other symptoms before the appointment, including aspects such as:

  • How the pain feels, including whether the pain is sharp, stabbing, dull, achy, or hot.
  • Where the pain is felt, such as whether the pain is only felt in the neck or back, or if pain spreads to other areas, such as the shoulder, arm, pelvis, or legs. Pain distribution might also include whether the pain is focused in one area or if the pain is diffuse.
  • How often the pain occurs, including if the pain is constant or intermittent, better or worse with certain postures, and better or worse after activity or exercise.
  • When the pain began, such as spontaneously, after waking up one morning, or after an injury.
  • Other associated symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, or weakness.
  • Attempted treatments and their effectiveness, such as if heat, ice, and/or over-the-counter pain medicine has helped alleviate pain.

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Dont Be Embarrassed Of Your Pain

Unfortunately, many people live with the stubborn notion that admitting to back and neck pain is a sign of weakness. Dr. Ganapathy offered a reassurance to anyone suffering from lingering pain, explaining that they have no reason to be ashamed. In fact, toughing it out can only serve to make your condition more difficult to manage. There are many possible solutions that could resolve your pain, including movement therapies, lifestyle changes, medication and surgery. In many cases, surgery can be avoided with timely assessment and treatment. Your doctor will help you decide which approach will help you feel better and get back to normal life.

Learn more about common ailments like back and neck pain. You can begin to find a solution today with advice from experts like Dr. Ganapathy in these similar articles.

When To Call A Doctor For Neck Pain

Most often neck pain will resolve on its own. But what are the signs that neck pain could be more serious and need a doctors opinion?

As a general guideline, the Mayo Clinic says you should contact a doctor if your neck pain:

  • Is severe
  • Persists for several days without relief
  • Spreads down arms or legs
  • Is accompanied by a headache, numbness, weakness, or tingling

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Can My Neck Pain Be Considered Serious

The short answer is that neck pain can be considered serious if its accompanied by other issues. For example, if you have severe neck pain along with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or loss of consciousness, you should seek medical attention right away.

If your neck pain is mild and not accompanied by any other symptoms, its likely just a case of muscle strain. The good news is that most cases of muscle strain heal on their own within two to three weeks.

If the pain doesnt go away after two or three weeks, you may want to talk with your doctor about a referral to physical therapy or chiropractic care for additional treatment options.

Signs That It Is Time To Go To The Doctor For Neck Pain

Neck Pain Doctor Bowie, MD

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

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What Symptoms Relate To Neck Pain

The pain often spreads from the neck towards the shoulders or upper back, and it often causes headaches. You might find the pain is worse when you hold your head in one position for a long time, for example, at a computer.

Neck pain might also come with muscle tightness or spasms, and you might not be able to move your head very well.

If you have a neck injury, you might also have dizziness, pins and needles or numbness, weakness, changes to your vision or hearing, problems concentrating or difficulty swallowing. See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

When Should You See A Doctor For Your Neck And Back Pain

Neck and back pain are common, but if you have recurring pain, you might wonder if theres something going thats contributing to your chronic cricks. Spinal surgeon Erica Bisson, MD, says surgery should be a last resort, but in this podcast she talks about some questions you should ask yourself before considering surgery. In this podcast she talks with Dr. Tom Miller about some ways to treat neck and back pain at home before making an appointment with your doctor.

Dr. Miller: Is it time to see a spine surgeon for your back and neck pain? We’re going to talk about that next on Scope Radio.

Announcer: Access to our experts with in-depth information about the biggest health issues facing you today. The Specialists, with Dr. Tom Miller, is on The Scope

Dr. Miller: Hi, I’m Dr. Tom Miller and I am here with Dr. Erica Bisson and she is a neurosurgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery here at the University of Utah. Erica, tell me a little bit about when it might be the right time for a person with neck or back pain to see a spine surgeon?

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Neck Pain Treatment And Remedies

Remember that any pain, stiffness, or mobility issues involving your neck should be evaluated by a doctor. Its important to rule out injuries and infections. Always ask for professional medical advice before trying approaches on your own.

A physical evaluation by a doctor can help identify the cause of your pain. X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound imaging can also be helpful in making a diagnosis.

What Type Of Doctor Is Best For Neck Pain Care

7 Ways to Relieve Neck Pain – Ask Doctor Jo

The type of doctor that is best for your neck pain care depends a lot on your symptoms and their cause. That is the first thing you need to figure out. The good news is there are many types of doctors that can properly diagnose your neck condition. If youre experiencing chronic neck pain defined as severe pain for over three months then you should go directly to a spine specialist or spinal surgeon. You dont want to take any chances. It could be a serious issue. If youve just started feeling pain, a good place to start would be a chiropractor.

Chiropractors for Neck Pain Care

So how can chiropractors diagnose your neck and give you proper neck pain care? If youve never visited a chiropractor before, theyll do the same thing a general practitioner would do theyll order x-rays. If they see anything that requires medical attention, theyll refer you to an appropriate specialist right away. If they see that your spine is misaligned, theyll begin your consultation. Theyll show you the x-rays and explain to you where the misalignment is occurring in your neck, what nerves are being affected, and why its causing you pain. They can then begin to adjust your spine, consistently over time moving it back into its natural position.

Spinal Specialists and Surgeons for Neck Pain Care

Physical Therapists for Neck Pain Care

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Necks Just Hurt Sometimes

The neck is one of a few areas of the body along with the low back, jaw, and bowels that is vulnerable to bouts of unexplained pain, sometimes quite stubborn. In most cases, the pain goes away. Pain is weird and unpredictable, and is often the result of the brain being overprotective and paranoid.

Worrying about the pain may be literally the worst thing you can do not just a poor coping mechanism, but a genuine risk factor. Like noise pollution, the more you focus on it, the worse it gets. Thats why this article is focused on rational reassurance.

If you want more, carry on with my huge neck crick tutorial, for people with a frustrating sensation of mechanical stuckness. Or read about the weirdness of pain and learn more about how to tame your brains false alarms.

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Signs Of Arthritis Are Not Red Flags

One of the most common concerns about the neck that is not especially worrisome: signs of wear and tear on the cervical spine, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease, as revealed by x-ray, CT scans, and MRI. Many people who have clear signs of arthritic degeneration in their spines will never have any symptoms, or only minor, and/or not for a long time.12 For instance, about 50% of fortysomethings have clinically silent disk bulges, and even at age 20 theres a surprising amount of spinal arthritis. The seriousness of these signs is routinely overestimated by patients and healthcare professionals alike.13

Signs of arthritis are almost never diagnostic on their own.14 Do yourself a favour: dont assume that you have a serious problem based only on pain plus signs of arthritis. Pain is common serious degeneration is not.

but no pain

Percentages of people with various kinds of spinal degeneration . Source:

Imaging finding

Is neck pain a symptom of COVID-19?

All common aches and pains are more likely to be triggered or aggravated by any infection, but perhaps COVID-19 more than most simply because its unusually good at causing widespread body aching, and necks are included in that. But neck pain doesnt stand out any more than any other common locations for aching or soreness .

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You Had A Fall Accident Or Trauma

If you’ve recently been injured via a fall, blow or accident, the back or neck pain that follows should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you were able to walk away intact, any new spine pain may be related to the impact.

If you have osteoporosis and have recently fallen or been in an accident, there is an increased likelihood of a spine injury.

Neck Pain Emergency See Your Doctor Now

Dealing With Neck Pain Naturally

Typically, neck pain is not an emergency or something that requires a immediate medical attention.

Most cases of having a stiff neck in the morning or postural pain from using a computer usually respond to simple strategies like getting a cervical pillow or using ergonomic or postural modifications. Minor injuries usually respond to some ice, then heat. Chronic neck pain is more complicated, but often responds to exercises.

It is reasonable to try some of these home remedies at first. With a lack of response, it is often advisable to seek medical attention by going to your medical or chiropractic doctor. Usually, tests are done and therapy is instituted, whether it is in office treatments like adjustments or physical therapy and/or medications, injections and possibly surgery.

If neck pain is present with the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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