When Does Neck Pain Necessitate Medical Intervention?

Neck pain is a common complaint for adult Americans, particularly those over 50, but in most cases it’s usually short-lived and minor. There’s often no need to see a doctor, since the pain responds to rest and home care. However, there are times when neck pain becomes chronic. In fact, only chronic lower back pain is more common than ongoing neck pain, which accounts for about 15% of chronic pain complaints.

Chronic pain isn’t the only time you should seek medical attention for neck issues. Certain symptoms can combine to suggest more serious conditions that not only need a doctor’s diagnosis but can even be signs of a serious bacterial infection.  Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center is your go-to neck pain specialist, with two locations in Phoenix and one in Sun City West. Give us a call or request an appointment online when your neck pain becomes a problem.  

When it’s time to see a doctor

When your neck pain appears without an event or injury causing it, it could be from something as simple as poor posture. Perhaps you had an intense day at work, and you hunched over your workstation without taking breaks to stretch. A day or two of rest assisted by over-the-counter pain medicine and your pain disappears.

It’s another matter entirely when your pain stems from something more obvious. A car accident or sports injury can cause neck pain, and in some cases, it can be quite severe and symptomatic of more complex conditions such as whiplash. It’s prudent to seek medical attention any time there’s a chance you may have sustained injuries beyond muscle strain.  

In addition, scheduling a doctor’s visit is a good idea when you:

When neck pain indicates a serious problem

There are at least two situations where even mild neck pain may require medical attention when it’s accompanied by other symptoms. 

Pain that radiates from your neck and down an arm could be a sign of a condition called cervical radiculopathy, caused by irritation or compression of a nerve root at one of the vertebrae in your neck. You could experience sensations other than pain too, such as tingling or numbness in your hands and fingers, or your entire arm could feel weak. Grip strength may also fail.

When you have a stiff neck along with a fever and/or a severe headache, you’re displaying symptoms of meningitis. This is a bacterial infection that causes the brain and spinal cord to swell. Neck pain isn’t always present with meningitis, and you could also be sensitive to light or sound, while experiencing nausea and vomiting. While symptoms usually develop over a few days, early treatment of meningitis is important to prevent serious complications.

Your neck plays an important role carrying, moving, and protecting your head. Any time neck pain interferes with your life is a good time to contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center. Call or use the appointment request tool online today. 

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If you're looking for a neurosurgeon in the Phoenix area, contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for the ultimate neurological care.