Written by : Dana Munoz
Have you ever experienced neck pain? Maybe you have it after sleeping, workouts, or even during the day while you’re working.
Neck pain is one of the most common ailments. It is estimated that up to 75% of the global population experiences some neck pain at some point throughout their lives.
There are several risk factors that may cause neck pain. For one, men are more predisposed to pain in the neck, especially after the age of 55.
Osteoarthritis is also a common cause for people after 50, but neck pain is not a condition experienced only by the elderly, quite the contrary.
If you’re concerned about your neck pains, keep reading to know whether or not you should be worried by your painful neck!
The Common Causes of Neck Pains
Neck pain can be caused by various factors, such as:
- Muscle strains
- Vertebrae-related conditions (Compressed nerves and degeneration)
- Accidental contact (enumerate specific instances)
- Posture mistakes
When Not To Worry About Neck Pain
1. Sharp neck pains
Believe it or not, sharp neck pains, are rarely a cause for concern. How can that be?
They usually indicate your issue is temporary, that you have a little irritation in the cervical spine.
Because there are several nerves in the area, any irritation can feel like a very sharp, stabbing pain.
But this doesn’t always mean there’s a serious condition going on. Just think of when you accidentally hit your “funny bone” at the elbow (ulnar nerve).
The pain is very bad, but it goes away quickly, without leaving any injury. In most cases, the same is valid for sharp neck pains.
2. Indications of arthritis
Arthritis is a common and fairly normal condition that comes with age.
New studies even show there’s a surprising rise in issues such as silent disk bulges and other signs of spinal arthritis even at age 20.
Of course, if you experience serious degeneration, you should see a doctor. However, some mild neck pain every now and then along with signs of arthritis is not a cause for concern.
3. Pain focused on one side
Whether your pain is focused on the right or the left side of your neck isn’t very important and certainly isn’t a cause for concern.
The neck is symmetrical, which is why side pains aren’t serious. Instead, they might simply show that:
- You had an uncomfortable position in your sleep
- You should change your pillow
- You may have done some overstretching or pulled a muscle while working out
The solution could be an easy one, such as a quick visit to your chiropractor who will help ease the pain in no time!
4. Minor stiff neck
Just like the pain focused on one side, a stiff neck that vanishes in time, with a few stretches or with the help of a chiropractor is not a cause for concern.
It is usually just a result of poor posture either while sitting in front of the computer, driving, or doing any other repetitive movements with an incorrect posture.
5. Manageable pain
Whether your pain starts suddenly during the day, or you wake up with it, if you can manage it at home, with a few easy stretches or simple rest, you can be sure it is nothing to worry about.
If the pain comes back after a while, try to make sure you always have the correct posture, or that the mattress and the pillow you sleep on are supportive enough.
In other words, try to find the triggers of your pain.
When To Worry About Neck Pains
1. Persistent fever
A low-grade fever that goes away in 1-2 days might not be alarming. It may just be a sign of some simple inflammation or the body fighting a potential infection.
But if your fever persists, doesn’t lower with medication, or even keeps increasing day after day, all while you experience neck pain, it’s time to see a doctor.
Also, even if the fever remains low-grade, but doesn’t go away and is accompanied by neck pain or even headaches, it is again a sign for concern, as it could be a symptom of meningitis.
2. Severe headache or nausea
Neck pain that is accompanied by a severe headache or even nausea is another red flag.
Meningitis and head trauma are only 2 possible causes, so make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible.
3. Unexplained weight loss
Unexplained weight loss is another cause for concern, especially when it is accompanied by pain in any area of the body.
So if you haven’t been sick or didn’t change your lifestyle, but still lost weight, consider it a red flag.
If possible, try to pinpoint if the neck pain began before or after you started losing weight, as it might help your doctor find the cause quicker.
4. Light contact on the spine induces pain
Pain even on very light contact on the spine is another sign you need to see a doctor.
Unless you know you’ve bruised yourself, you shouldn’t be feeling pain on light contact, so investigate the cause.
5. Extremely stiff neck
When your neck is extremely stiff and nothing seems to help, it may be a sign of a major problem.
The best thing to do is talk to a doctor and definitely don’t force yourself to move your neck, you might just make things worse.
Consult A Neck Pain Specialist For An Accurate Diagnosis!
Most of the time, neck pains can be treated at home with some lifestyle changes.
Things like changing your mattress or your pillow, easy stretches, and exercises can go a long way.
If you’re already exercising regularly, make sure you pay attention to your neck both when working out and when stretching.
Posture is also crucial, both when exercising, standing, sitting at a desk, or driving. Without a good posture, your neck pain will just keep coming back.
A chiropractor could also help combat neck pain, as they specialize in the correct spinal alignment.
Sometimes, however, you may need a little more help. A neck pain specialist can help you with an accurate diagnosis and treatments when natural remedies don’t work anymore.
NSAIDs are the first step in most cases, but sometimes something like an epidural spinal steroid injection might be necessary.
If you don’t know who to turn to, check out VISP, a group of expert vascular specialists based in Arizona, who can help with treatment for neck pain.