Most people experience aches and pains in the neck sometimes. Sleeping in the wrong position or straining a muscle during exercise can cause pain and discomfort, but the injuries are not always serious. However, there are times when you should see a doctor about your neck pain. When you need to consult a doctor depends on the severity of your pain as well as what’s causing it. You can use this information as a guide, but when in doubt, ask your doctor about any pain you’re experiencing.
Causes of Neck Pain
- Muscle strain: Sometimes lifting something heavy or awkwardly positioned can cause muscle strains. Twisting or turning the neck in certain ways may also lead to strain and pain.
- Posture or position: Holding the head and neck in the same position for extended periods can cause strains that are unrelated to lifting heavy objects. Sitting in the same position all day at work or hunching over a phone or other device can cause neck pain. Even gritting your teeth can lead to strain. Improving your posture and changing position every now and then can alleviate symptoms.
- Pinched nerves: Nerves in the cervical spine can be compressed or pinched, leading to neck pain.
- Cervical spondylosis: Also known as disc degeneration or arthritis of the neck, spondylosis of the cervical spine is a condition that develops gradually. Over time, the cartilage and bones in the neck joints break down. This usually happens naturally with age, but can be triggered by injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, over 85% of people 65 and older are affected by cervical spondylosis.
- Cervical spinal stenosis: This condition occurs when the spaces within the spine become narrow. As the spaces narrow, the bony vertebrae put pressure on the nerves in the spine. Stenosis is often related to osteoarthritis (wear-and-tear arthritis such as spondylosis).
- Herniated disc: Also known as a slipped disk or ruptured disk. This condition occurs when the interior of an intervertebral disk, a soft rubbery pad that cushions the vertebrae, is pushed toward the spinal nerves. Pressure on the nerves in the spinal canal cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the neck.
- Trauma from accidents: Neck pain may be caused by injuries caused by car accidents or bad falls. Rear-end collisions can result in whiplash, in which soft tissues are strained by the head jerking back and forth after impact.
When to See a Doctor
Some minor neck strains may be treatable with home remedies and self-care. Ice can soothe and numb pain while heat can relax muscles. Carefully rubbing or massaging sore muscles can help alleviate discomfort as well. Stretching and practicing good posture can help with current pain while also preventing future injury.
However, these remedies are not always sufficient for treating neck issues. Sometimes you should see a doctor. If you have experienced trauma (such as a car accident or a fall) and have neck pain you should seek medical attention immediately. If your neck pain is severe enough to interfere with your necessary daily activities then you should see a doctor. This includes pain that prevents you from sleeping or resting. You should also see a doctor about your neck pain if:
- Pain persists for several days without relief
- You develop other symptoms like headache, fever, numbness, or weakness
- Pain spreads down arms or legs
Get a Second Opinion
If you have been diagnosed with a condition related to neck pain, consider getting a second opinion before moving forward with any treatment plans. Dr. Saint-Louis of SpineRad has decades of experience as a sought-after radiologist. He specializes in interpreting imaging scans and connecting them to an accurate diagnosis for patients. This is critical for forming an appropriate course of treatment. Now, patients can get a valuable second opinion from Dr. Saint-Louis without having to leave the comfort of their homes. Contact Dr. Sain-Louis at SpineRad today to get started.