Neck pain is a common complaint of numerous people across the United States. Described as aching, soreness, tingling, or tenderness, this musculoskeletal symptom can resolve by itself or, when persistent, may need medical attention.
Let’s look at the causes of neck pain and when you should see an orthopedic physician for care.
Causes of Neck Problems
Your neck, or cervical spine, works hard day after day, supporting and turning your head. It possesses a wide range of motion due to its many bony vertebrae and associated spinal nerves, blood vessels, muscles, ligaments, and cushions called intervertebral discs. Because it works so hard, wear and tear can take a toll over time, causing chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and more.
In addition to these chronic conditions, your neck can suffer acute injuries, such whiplash from a car accident or a fracture from a fall. There are countless reasons for neck dysfunction and pain. Overexertion, poor posture, stress, nerve impingement, tumors, heavy lifting, or prolonged carrying of backpacks or shoulder bags also cause neck pain.
What Does Neck Pain Feel Like?
Neck pain varies in intensity and quality depending on the circumstances causing it and your age, level of physical condition, and overall health.
Many patients characterize their neck pain as:
- A generalized ache
- Soreness in one or more particular spots
- Tenderness to the touch
- Stabbing pain
- Constant or intermittent
- Accompanied by headaches and shoulder pain
Contributing factors are gender (women experience neck pain more often than men), obesity, and smoking. Even sleeping too long in a poorly supportive position can cause substantial neck pain.
What You Can Do At Home For Neck Pain
Mild or intermittent neck pain may be relieved at home for most people. This kind of neck pain can be caused by overdoing computer work or having a stressful week with the kids. While sore and very noticeable, this kind of neck pain can be resolved with:
- Over the counter medications to relieve pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Application of heat and ice (alternating between the two)
- Stretching and posture exercises
Some conditions, such as mild whiplash, can improve by wearing a soft cervical collar for a few days.
When to Seek Medical Attention For Neck Pain
Unfortunately, neck pain can be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a herniated disc, fractured vertebrae, or nerve impingement. When neck pain persists, you should see an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible for a complete medical evaluation and diagnosis.
Symptoms you should not ignore are:
- Pain that persists or worsens over the course of a few days
- Discomfort that disrupts your daily routine or sleep
- Pain that spreads from the neck to the shoulders, arms, and hands
- Tingling or numbness in your arms or legs
- Shortness of breath
- Overall weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Incontinence (bladder or bowel)
Finally, never wait to go to the ER after a serious fall, motor vehicle accident, or blow to the head.
How Your Doctor Will Assess Your Neck Pain
Your physician will examine your head and neck, assessing your reflexes and ability to detect sensations, level of pain, and muscular strength and coordination in your arms and legs. Besides routine X-rays, you may undergo an MRI or CT scan to give your provider a more complete and accurate picture of both soft and hard structures in the neck.
Rest assured that your orthopedic specialist will work to uncover the reasons for your pain and to compose a treatment plan to resolve it.
Neck Pain Care in O’Fallon, MO
At Advanced Bone & Joint, we have board-certified physicians on staff who are experts in spine care and pain management. You’ll receive the finest neck pain care available.
Call us at (636) 229-4222, or request your appointment online through our easy to use scheduling form. We have three locations for your convenience in O’Fallon, St. Peters, and Wentzville, MO.