Sleeping in an awkward position, overextending soft tissues, and not being mindful of your posture are some of the reasons you may experience neck pain. Normally, discomfort of this nature is temporary. But neck pain is sometimes a sign of a more serious problem. How can you tell if your neck pain is caused by a simple strain or a serious underlying issue? Here’s what you need to know to make this determination.
You can’t always go by the nature of your neck pain, since a neck strain can produce symptoms similar to those associated with a damaged cervical spine disc, which may require specialized treatment such as minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills patients should pay attention to how long their discomfort lasts. A simple strain typically goes away within a few days or weeks as the affected soft tissues naturally heal and recover. Neck pain related to a structural problem or other serious issue is more likely to come and go or continue for more than a few weeks.
The area where your neck pain is felt is another important factor to consider. Discomfort related to a simple neck strain is usually felt within the affected area, which is referred to as localized pain. However, pain may extend slightly downward or into the shoulders. Symptoms related to a cervical spine condition, on the other hand, tend to extend to nearby areas such as the shoulders, arms, or hands (radicular pain). Structural problems with your neck are also more likely to cause neurological symptoms that may include:
• Numbness and tingling sensations
• Shock-like pain
• General weakness
Simply hearing your neck “crack” as tension is released doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a serious problem. However, if your normal neck movements seem to always result in grinding or cracking sounds, this may be the result of bone-on-bone friction caused by a damaged disc or worn cartilage. Underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis can also produce similar damage.
If your neck pain has been getting worse over time or it developed after some type of trauma, it’s more likely you have a serious underlying neck issue. But if you know you woke up in an awkward position or your pain developed after hours of sitting at your computer, it’s more likely you have neck strain. However, this isn’t always the case, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis if your neck pain is getting worse or isn’t going away.
Neck strains often respond well to self-care efforts, such as applying ice and/or heat, performing basic neck stretches, and using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Still, it’s best to see your doctor or Beverly Hills spine surgeon if your symptoms aren’t improving or you’re experiencing nerve-based symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness. Lastly, neck stiffness accompanied by a headache and/or fever could be related to meningitis. Seek medical attention immediately if this is what you’re experiencing.
If you’re having severe or chronic neck pain, seek the advice of a spinal health specialist to get a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. The pioneering spinal health experts at The Spine Institute lead the industry, using the most innovative methods to treat all forms of neck and back pain. Reach out to our friendly staff today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.