Chances are, your latest bout of neck pain is a minor musculoskeletal problem that will feel better in a day or two. The bones, muscles, and soft tissue supporting your head balance a heavy load and it’s easy to experience a strain due to an awkward movement or as a result of poor posture.
However, neck pain can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition or the result of a traumatic injury. All nerves traveling out to your body pass through the cervical spine — the bones that form the structure of your neck. When you experience pain, tingling, numbness, or loss of strength in your shoulders, arms, or hands, it could be something more serious than a simple strain.
Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic can address any persistent or unusual neck pain you may be experiencing. Neurosurgeon Adam Lewis, MD is a neck pain specialist at our practice. He and his team can diagnose and treat the reasons for your neck pain, including degenerative conditions like arthritis. Knowing more about how neck pain happens can help you understand the reasons why it shouldn’t be ignored.
Perhaps you slept in an awkward position or overdid it at work or at the gym the day before. Perhaps your desk chair has seen better days and doesn’t offer the support it once did. Problems as simple as these can create neck pain.
Being in a car accident, even a minor fender-bender, creates a tremendous amount of force to the neck, often causing whiplash. A traumatic neck injury can also happen when you play contact sports. Even toweling your hair vigorously after a shower can cause a strain if conditions are right.
Time might also be a contributor since the state of your spine changes as you get older. Essentially everyone experiences some level of deterioration, but it’s only a problem for those who experience thickening ligaments, bone spurs, herniated discs, and cartilage loss from arthritis. You can have degenerating conditions in the spine without pain resulting, but this too, may change over time.
It’s obvious when you have an accident or injury that medical attention is appropriate. Even when there are no major symptoms, checking for structural damage is a smart move. But what about incidental neck pain?
Frequency and duration are the guidelines here. If you only have occasional neck pain once or twice a year that lasts no more than a few days following a strain or overuse, then you’re likely safe to hold off that discussion until your next primary care exam.
But when neck pain occurs more often, lasts longer than a week, or significantly interferes with your daily routine, then it’s time to address the issue.
Initially, you can treat neck pain with over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories. Alternating cold and hot packs may also relieve pain and swelling. Once the worst of the pain subsides, gentle stretching and mild exercise like walking can sometimes help.
If these steps don’t relieve your symptoms or reduce their frequency, it’s time to schedule an exam with Dr. Lewis. Contact Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic directly by phone or make an appointment online and book your session now.