Neck Pain: When Should You Seek Medical Help?

Neck pain is not only a nuisance, but it can signal a more serious medical issue. Only a doctor can determine what is causing neck pain and start a necessary course of treatment. So, if you have had neck pain for more than a week and it is accompanied by other symptoms or if the pain is severe, you should schedule medical treatment. 

When To Be Concerned

Neck pain is rarely a symptom of something more serious, but there are certain types of neck pain and symptoms that are concerning.

  • Neck pain and numbness
  • Loss of arm or hand strength
  • Shooting pains in shoulders or arms

If you have these or any other symptoms associated with your neck pain, it's important to seek medical attention to determine the cause. Rarely, unusually persistent neck pain could signal a stroke or other serious medical issues.

What Can Neck Pain Mean?

Since neck pain is usually not serious, it's okay to wait a few days and see if the pain subsides. Maybe you just slept wrong or strained your neck. If neck pain persists for more than a week, it's time to get things checked out.

Persistent neck pain can signal certain conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated disc
  • Pinched nerve
  • Neck strain
  • Cervical spondylosis

Once your doctor narrows down the cause, he or she can help relieve the pain and plan treatments or surgery depending on the condition and severity.

Diagnosing and Treating Neck Pain

Your doctor performs a physical exam and asks for a complete medical history. It's important to tell the doctor the specifics about your pain and symptoms even if it doesn't seem relevant.

The doctor uses different methods to diagnose your condition:

  • Blood draw
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • X-rays
  • Electromyography
  • Spinal tap

Using these tools, your doctor can determine the cause of your pain and recommend treatment options:

  • Heat and Ice therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication to control pain
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Neck collar
  • Surgery (in rare cases)

Seek help from a professional for neck pain treatment.

Some people experience neck pain due to poor posture or strained muscles. If this is the case, the pain should subside with rest and good posture.

Anytime your pain is ongoing or accompanied by other symptoms, it's important to make sure it's not something more serious. You don't have to live with chronic neck pain when treatments are available to ease the pain and get you back to living your best life.