When Neck Pain Is Serious
Some signs and symptoms associated with neck pain could indicate the health of a nerve root or the spinal cord is at risk, or perhaps there is an underlying disease or infection. These âred flagâ signs and symptoms may include fever or chills, pain or tingling that radiates into the arm or leg, problems with balance or coordination, or other troublesome signs. A doctor must be consulted for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
Severe neck pain from a trauma, such as a hard fall or car crash, needs emergency care.
Follow Good Habits To Prevent Pain In Your Neck
Like with many health issues people have, prevention is always the best form of treatment for neck pain. If you can keep it away from the start, you wont have to worry about how to make it stop. Follow these guidelines to keep your neck pain at bay:
Sit up straight with back support, flat feet on the floor, and relaxed shoulders if youre going to be in the same position for a while. Get up every 30 minutes or so for a good stretch.
- Keep your computer monitor at eye level so you arent straining to see it.
- Put the seat in your car in the most upright position, especially if youre going to be driving around for a while.
- Consider investing in a cervical pillow to relieve everyday neck stress.
- Be mindful of your posture and practice sitting and standing with your spine and neck in alignment.
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.
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Red Flags For Serious Causes Of Neck Pain
Its rare, but of course once in a while neck pain may be a warning sign of cancer, infection, autoimmune disease, or some kind of structural problem like spinal cord injury or a threat to an important blood vessel. Some of these ominous situations cause hard-to-miss signs and symptoms other than pain and most are likely to be diagnosed correctly and promptly so, if it feels serious, stop consulting Dr. Google and just go get checked out.
Otherwise, if you are aware of the red flags, you can get checked out when the time is right and avoid excessive worry until then.
A personal worry example One day I became convinced that the terrible stubborn pain in my neck had to be a cancer. It was one of the lowest moments of my life. The pain had been escalating slowly for months, and eventually it got so severe and unrelenting that I lost my cool. But then, after an emergency massage appointment, I felt almost completely better and that particular pain never bothered me again.
This is often how it goes with chronic pain: just when we think we cant stand it anymore, it finally goes away. Its always darkest before the dawn.
The rule of thumb is that you should start a more thorough medical investigation when all three of these conditions are met, three general red flags for neck pain:
Box : Neck Pain Points To Cover In History And Examination
Time of onset of pain
Any associated trauma
Any history of drugs especially those causing extrapyramidal side effects
Problems with vision
Other associated symptoms like headaches, vertigo, vomiting
Unusual neck posturing, that is, hyperflexed position, child trying to splint the neck with their hands. These should raise the suspicion of posterior fossa tumours, discitis and spinal cord tumours
Any gait abnormalities and repeated attendances at the hospital with persistence of symptoms
A complete physical examination should include examination of the neurological system, spine, and eyes especially eye movements and the coveruncover test. If then an initial diagnosis of muscular spasm is made the child should be asked to return for follow up in 4872 hours should the pain persist. A second clinical examination may give more clues and more appropriate imaging modalities can be used.
This series of unusual and rare case reports highlights that physicians in the paediatric accident and emergency department need more awareness when dealing with children with neck pain and abnormal neck posturing. A search for atypical features of neck pain and abnormal neck posture should avoid delays in diagnosis and appropriate referral and management.
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Neck Pain: When To Worry & Treatment Options
You might not consider your neck to be a very vital part of your body until it starts to cause you pain. The reality is, your neck has one of the biggest roles. It is what holds and balances your head, which for some individuals can weigh up to 12 pounds! Can you imagine having to walk around with that kind of load all day? After a while, it can cause irritation, discomfort, or even chronic pain that just doesnt seem to go away.
Research suggests that up to 80% of people experience a pain or stiffness in their neck at some point in their lives. Out of those individuals, 20%-50% have complaints at least once a year. Why are those numbers so high? Find out what causes neck pain, the symptoms to watch for, your treatment options to get relief, and a few exercises to try at home that will keep your pain levels down or eliminate them completely.
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.
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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.
When To Worry About A Headache
You can take care of many types of headaches by yourself, and your doctor can give you medication to control most of the tougher headaches. But some headaches call for prompt medical care. Here are some warning signs for when you should worry about headaches:
- Headaches that first develop after age 50
- A major change in the pattern of your headaches
- An unusually severe headache
- Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
- Headaches that get steadily worse
- Changes in personality or mental function
- Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory, or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
- Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
- Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
- Headaches after a blow to the head
- Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
- Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
- Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems
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What Should You Do If Your Neck Hurts
If you have minor neck pain or stiffness, take these simple steps to relieve it:
Other Types Of Headaches
Doctors have diagnosed hundreds of conditions associated with headaches. Here are just a few:
Medication headaches. Many drugs number headaches among their side effects. And although it seems paradoxical, many medications used to treat headaches can also cause medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches. Migraine sufferers are particularly vulnerable to a vicious cycle of pain leading to more medication, which triggers more pain. If you have frequent headaches and use medication, OTC or prescription, or both, for more than 10 to 15 days a month, you may have medication overuse headaches. The way to find out is to discontinue or taper your medication but always consult your doctor first. A corticosteroid such as prednisone may help control pain during the withdrawal period.
Sinus headaches. Acute sinusitis causes pain over the forehead, around the nose and eyes, over the cheeks, or in the upper teeth. Stooping forward increases the pain. Thick nasal discharge, congestion, and fever pinpoint the problem to the sinuses. When the acute infection resolves, the pain disappears. Sinusitis is not a common cause of chronic or recurrent headaches.
Ice cream headaches. Some people develop sharp, sudden headache pain when they eat anything cold. The pain is over in less than a minute, even if you keep eating. If you are bothered by ice cream headaches, try eating slowly and warming the cold food at the front of your mouth before you swallow it.
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When You Should Consult Your Physician
Sometimes, neck crepitus can appear with another health-related occurrence. For example, maybe you noticed these neck sounds several weeks after cervical spine surgery. Your spinal surgeon can determine if the two incidents are related.
In a similar vein, maybe you recently experienced a fall or were involved in a car accident. If your neck crepitus showed up shortly afterward, the two incidents could be related. Make your physician aware of this new development.
Finally, if neck crepitus occurs almost every time you move a certain joint, you may have less-than-ideal joint function. If you experience pain during the joint movement, a joint function issue is more likely.
Latest Chronic Pain News
— Neck pain may be caused by an injury or the slow degeneration of discs between the vertebrae. So, when should you see a doctor?
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends an office visit if:
- You have long-lasting pain or stiffness without an obvious injury.
- Your pain becomes severe.
- The pain radiates into the legs or arms.
- Your pain is accompanied by headaches, weakness, tingling or numbness.
— Diana Kohnle
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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
What Are The Symptoms Of Back And Neck Pain
Symptoms linked to back pain may include:
- Dull, burning, or sharp pain in your back. The pain can be limited to a single spot or cover a large area.
- Leg numbness or tingling above or below your knee
- Stiffness or aching that occurs anywhere along your spine from your neck to your tailbone
- Sharp, shooting pain that spreads from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of your thigh, and into your calf and toes
- Consistent ache in the middle or lower part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for a long period
Loss of bladder and bowel control with weakness in both legs are symptoms of a serious condition that needs medical attention right away.
Symptoms linked to neck pain can be:
- Arm numbness or tingling
- Shoulder pain
- Sharp shooting pain or a dull ache in your neck
Pain that occurs suddenly in your back or neck from an injury is acute pain. Acute pain comes on quickly and may leave sooner than chronic back or neck pain. This type of pain should not last more than 6 weeks.
Pain that may come on quickly or slowly and lingers for 3 months or more is chronic pain. Chronic pain is less common than acute pain.
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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. Thats 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.
Managing Neck Pain At Home
For most types of general neck pain, the advice is to carry on with your normal daily activities, keep active, and take painkillers to relieve the symptoms.
These steps may help you to manage your pain:
- take regular doses of paracetamol, ibuprofen, or a combination of the two, to control pain ibuprofen gel can be rubbed on to your neck as an alternative to taking tablets
- try holding a hot water bottle or heat pack to your neck this can help reduce the pain and any muscle spasms, although some people find cold packs offer better relief
- sleep on a low, firm pillow at night using too many pillows may force your neck to bend unnaturally
- check your posture bad posture can aggravate the pain, and it may have caused it in the first place
- avoid wearing a neck collar there’s no evidence to suggest wearing a neck collar will help to heal your neck, and it’s generally better to keep your neck mobile
- avoid driving if you find it difficult to turn your head this may prevent you being able to view traffic
- if your neck is stiff or twisted, try some neck exercises gently tense your neck muscles as you tilt your head up and down and from side to side, and as you carefully twist your neck from left to right these exercises will help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your range of movement
You should see your GP if:
If you’ve had neck pain or stiffness for a month or more, your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist, if they think it will help you.
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Visit Our Chiropractor In Port Jefferson
Dr. Sophia Argeropoulos is a chiropractor in Port Jefferson who is dedicated to providing the best possible care to her patients. Untreated neck pain can interfere with daily activities and reduce your quality of life. If you are suffering from neck pain, dont wait to receive the treatment you need! To schedule an appointment, call or visit our website today!
Common Causes Of Neck Pain
Neck pain can be the result of everyday living, such as:
- bad posture
- sleeping in an uncomfortable position
- holding your neck in the same position for a long time – for example when reading, driving or using a computer
But occasionally neck pain can be the result of a more serious underlying condition.
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External Factors Or Other Causes Of Neck Pain
- emotional stress almost everyone carries their stress in their neck and shoulder muscles. Muscles in the neck can tighten up and ache in response to stress, anxiety, or depression.
- infection in some cases, bacteria or viral infections can cause inflammation of the neck soft tissue. Examples would include meningitis.
- myofascial pain this chronic condition has trigger points, which result from achy muscles and surrounding connective tissues, typically in the upper back or neck.
- spinal tumor. A tumor, such as from cancer, could develop in the cervical spine and press against a nerve.
- spondylolisthesis. This condition occurs when one vertebra slips over the one below it. It can be due to a tiny fracture in the vertebra, or possibly from advanced disc degeneration, or ligament laxity.