When Is Neck Pain Serious Enough to Seek Medical Care?
At some point in our lives, we’ve all gotten up out of bed with a painful twinge in our neck. Some might call it “sleeping the wrong way.” Neck pain is not an uncommon complaint, as nearly 80% of Americans have experienced some level of neck pain during their life.
The neck is designed to stabilize the weight of the head while supporting movement. Several triggering events or underlying factors can irritate the neck muscles and cause pain that ranges from dull to intense. The majority of people with neck pain recover on their own, whether it’s through rest, physical therapy, or over-the-counter medicine. Still, it’s imperative to know when to seek the care of a spine doctor when your neck pain persists.
When to Seek Medical Care for Neck Pain
At its worst, neck pain causes paralysis, which is why it’s important that you monitor your pain. If you’ve already been diagnosed with a neck or spine condition, then it’s more likely that you’ll need to seek emergency medical care. Those include tumors, degenerative disc disease, cervical dystonia, or a cervical fracture.
Generally, the same high alert applies if your neck pain:
- Becomes chronic (won’t go away)
- Radiates down your arms or legs
- Doesn’t respond well to treatment
- Worsens over time
- Is debilitating
- Causes headaches, weakness, numbness, or tingling
Contacting your doctor immediately after experiencing one or more of these symptoms is critical to your health. Putting off medical care may result in a higher risk of developing a severe illness. It’s normal for people to want to “tough it out” or “deal with it.” But when it comes to your neck health, it’s not worth putting your life on the line.
What Chronic Neck Pain Might Indicate
As pointed out before, if you weren’t already diagnosed with a medical condition, then chronic neck pain might indicate that something is going on in your body. Sometimes, neck pain may not be serious and generate mild symptoms like stiffness, headaches, or muscle spasms. It may be the case that you were hunched over too long at work or that you turned your neck the wrong way. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for those living with chronic neck pain.
In addition to the red flags above, pay close attention to the following symptoms:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mood changes
- Weight loss
Chronic neck pain may also indicate a brain or head injury. Perhaps you fell or were in a motor vehicle collision a few months ago but didn’t start feeling pain until recently. It’s possible that you sustained whiplash, have inflammation in the neck, or have a pinched nerve. Regardless, it’s important to find out the exact underlying cause for your pain because it may suggest a serious complication.
Rare Conditions That May Cause Neck Pain
Neck pain isn’t always caused by an injury. After common conditions of neck pain are ruled out, your doctor may start pursuing other possibilities. Depending on your condition, your doctor may give you a diagnosis after running a series of tests—some may be related to neck disorders and others not so much. Here are a few examples of rare conditions that may be linked to your neck pain:
- Eagle syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Vertebral osteomyelitis
Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. There’s even a broad range of psychological factors that may cause neck pain, including stress and anxiety. Your safest bet is to reach out to a medical professional who specializes in neck care—one that will go above and beyond to assure you receive the best possible care from a neck and spine doctor.
Get Rid of Neck Pain with Top Spine Specialists
When neck pain starts to interfere with every single part of your life, it’s time you get answers. The board-certified medical team at New Jersey Spine and Orthopedic will identify the root of the problem, answer any questions you may have, and generate a comprehensive treatment plan to get rid of your neck pain. If we’ve exhausted all non-surgical options and your neck pain persists, we’ll introduce one of our minimally invasive surgical procedures that may benefit you. Whichever the case, it’s our number one priority to support your healthcare needs.
At NJSO, we’re highly recognized for our innovative solutions and state-of-the-art technology. Backed by years of experience, we’re committed to restoring your life through compassionate care. To speak with New Jersey Spine and Orthopedic, call (866) 272-9271 or complete our contact form today!