Neck Pain Emergency — See Your Doctor Now!
Typically, neck pain is not an emergency or something that requires a immediate medical attention.
Most cases of having a stiff neck in the morning or postural pain from using a computer usually respond to simple strategies like getting a cervical pillow or using ergonomic or postural modifications. Minor injuries usually respond to some ice, then heat. Chronic neck pain is more complicated, but often responds to exercises.
It is reasonable to try some of these home remedies at first. With a lack of response, it is often advisable to seek medical attention by going to your medical or chiropractic doctor. Usually, tests are done and therapy is instituted, whether it is in office treatments like adjustments or physical therapy and/or medications, injections and possibly surgery.
If neck pain is present with the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Neck Pain Emergency – See Your Doctor Now If:
- Stiff neck, headache & fever. These 3 symptoms should alert one to the possibility of meningitis, a serious medical condition that indicates a bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord covering. Antibiotics are required to treat this as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
- Neck pain along with pain, numbness or tingling that travels down an arm, particularly if there is weakness of the hand or arm. This may be a sign that a disc has just herniated and is pinching a nerve. An acute disc herniation can be very painful and may require immediate treatment with medications to help alleviate high levels of inflammation, reducing the risk of nerve injury.
- Loss of control of the bladder or bowels may indicate pressure directly on the spinal cord from a herniated disc or from degenerative changes resulting in myelopathy of the cervical spine. This is a significant neck pain emergency that may require immediate surgery to remove the pressure and prevent permanent damage.
- Neck pain with chest pain can indicate a heart attack or angina. This can produce the typical heart symptoms, but may include neck pain, jaw pain and arm pain on the left side. This may be a condition called cervical angina, but do not hesitate to get to the emergency room immediately.
A 2020 study in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders indicates reasonable knowledge of cardiac symptoms like chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in arms or shoulders, feeling weak lightheaded or faint, pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back, and sweating. However, most are not familiar with other lesser known symptoms like stomach or abdominal discomfort, nausea or vomiting, headache, and feeling of anxiety.
- Swollen glands in the neck that do not go away or get worse. These can be a cause of neck pain related to an infection or even a tumor and requires urgent medical attention.
- Accident or injury. Injuries producing neck pain should be checked out immediately. Sometimes pain does not come on right away with minor injuries, but can start the next day. Injuries can cause fractures or sprains (torn ligaments) that might just seem like a pulled muscle. This may create a dangerous situation that is not always perceived as being serious, but always get checked out after an injury to make sure there is no serious damage.
Most of the time it is not serious and can be handled at home or can be managed with the right information and some reasonable steps in the treatment and prevention of neck pain. However, you should be aware of a neck pain emergency and the indications to seek immediate medical attention.