Identifying neck pain
Neck pain is common and usually not serious. Neck pain often goes away within one to two weeks. Neck pain is considered chronic if it lasts longer than three months.
Neck pain can occur in any structure of the neck. Those structures include muscles, nerves, bones, joints and the disks between bones.
Neck pain can be caused in many ways. Neck pain is most often caused by muscle strain or tension from common daily activities. Causes may include poor posture, poor workplace ergonomics, strain from exercising or sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Neck pain also can be caused by accidents or falls, or by whiplash from a collision.
Medical causes of neck pain may include:
- Cervical arthritis, or spondylosis
- A ruptured disk
- Small spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column
- Spinal infection, such as osteomyelitis, discitis or abscess
- Torticollis, in which neck muscles cause the head to turn or rotate to the side
- Cancer involving the spine
Treatment for neck pain
BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons offers treatment for neck pain. Our neurosurgeons also treat some medical conditions that can cause neck pain, including ruptured disks, spinal stenosis, spinal fractures and spinal injuries.
A first visit for neck pain usually consists of a physical exam and a review of symptoms. Tests usually are ordered only if your symptoms or your medical history suggest a tumor, infection, fracture or serious nerve disorder. Such tests may include X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI or blood tests.
When to seek treatment for neck pain
Seek immediate treatment by calling 911 or going to a hospital if you have:
- Neck pain caused by a fall, a blow or an injury, and you can’t move your arm or your hand.
- A fever and a headache, and your neck is so stiff that you can’t touch your chin to your chest. This may be meningitis.
- Symptoms of a heart attack, which can include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, arm pain or jaw pain.
Call your health care provider if you experience:
- Symptoms that don’t go away in a week
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in your arm or your hand
- Swollen glands or a lump in your neck
- Pain that doesn’t go away with regular doses of over-the-counter pain medicine
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing along with neck pain
- Pain that gets worse when you lie down
- Pain that wakes you at night
- Pain so severe that you can’t get comfortable
- Loss of control over urination or bowel movements
- Trouble walking and balancing