Neck pain is a very common symptom that most people experience at some point in their lives. In fact, one study reported that 13.9% of men and 17.4% of women surveyed had experienced neck pain at least once in the past three months alone. Neck pain can be dull or sharp, sudden or gradual, brief or chronic, and its causes can range widely from benign to emergency. In this article, you will learn about the possible causes of your neck pain, treatment options and which doctor you should go to for neck pain.
Common causes of neck pain
The neck is an area where several important muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerves are grouped closely together. Therefore, any injury, illness, or problem that affects one or more of these systems can cause neck pain.
Common causes of neck pain include:
- Muscle strain from carrying heavy loads
- Keeping the head at a wrong angle, especially when sleeping, working or using the phone
- Emotional stress or tension-type headaches
- Nerve entrapment
- Injuries caused by falling and similar stops
- Various types of arthritis
Neck pain or neck and shoulder pain can also be caused by a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition such as stiff neck, heart attack, meningitis, and Lyme disease .
How is neck pain treated?
In most cases, neck pain is caused by a mild muscle tension or muscle pull. If you don’t have other symptoms and you don’t remember any traumatic event that caused the pain to start, there’s a good chance this is the source of the problem. Fortunately, this type of pain usually goes away within a few days with gentle stretching exercises, massaging, and applying ice or heat several times a day. In addition, you should avoid applying pressure to the aching area while sleeping, and you should take the necessary precautions for this.
When to see a doctor for neck pain?
If your neck pain occurs after a traumatic accident or fall, such as a car accident, diving accident, or head injury, you should see a doctor immediately. Some pain and stiffness can be expected after such an event, but checking with a doctor is essential to understand if these symptoms are related to a more serious condition such as a bone fracture. If your pain is not related to a traumatic injury, you can follow the steps below for when to see a doctor.
It is recommended to see a doctor in the following cases:
- If your pain is so bad that it interferes with normal activities or sleep
- If it gets worse or does not go away despite the precautions you take at home
- If you have tingling in any part of your body along with the pain
It is recommended to go to the emergency room as a precaution in the following situations:
- If you have fever and chills
- If you have severe and persistent headaches
- If you have nausea and/or vomiting
- If there is a skin rash
- If you have sensitivity to light
- If you have an irregular heartbeat
- If you have breathing problems
- If you have muscle weakness
- If there is pain and numbness radiating to the arms
- If you have chest pain or jaw pain
Which doctor should I go to for neck pain?
The doctor you should go to for neck pain is your family doctor or an orthopedic or neurologist . An orthopedist is a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal conditions, including those affecting the spine. A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the brain and nerves.
It is recommended that you see your family doctor in the following situations:
- If you have no other symptoms other than neck pain
- You have not experienced a specific accident or injury that triggered the pain
It is recommended that you see an orthopedic specialist in the following situations:
- If you hear different sounds in your neck bones
- If the pain does not go away or comes back after applying heat and ice
- If the pain occurred as a result of any weight lifting
It is recommended that you see a neurologist in the following situations:
- If you feel tingling in any part of your body
- if you have been exposed to anything that could be toxic
- if you are tired
- If you have a pitch in your head
- If your family doctor or orthopedist has not found the cause of the pain