Neck pain is very common in today’s fast-paced world. Who has time for it? Yet, it seems to affect almost everyone at one time or another. Most of us shrug it off and continue on. However, sometimes neck pain can really put a crick in your day. Sometimes, it is so bothersome that it makes you begin to worry if something serious is wrong. In this article, we will discuss some red flags to be aware of and, then, we will consider a natural way to find relief for neck pain that has been successful for many.
Rest assured, most cases of neck pain are not serious. If you have been involved in an accident or the pain you feel is extremely severe or something you find very odd, it is important to seek immediate medical care. Don’t ignore something you feel is serious. It is better to get told everything is fine than to find yourself ignoring a serious health condition and paying the consequences. The following information refers to non-emergency situations and can help you decide whether or not you need to seek the care of a professional for your neck pain.
Red Flags to Pay Attention to for Neck Pain
Thankfully it is very rare, but neck pain can be a warning sign of cancer, an autoimmune disease, a structural problem (spinal cord injury or threat to a vital blood vessel), or an infection. Realize though, these situations create hard-to-miss signs and symptoms in addition to pain. They are also likely to be diagnosed quickly. This means, if it feels serious, go have it looked at by a professional. The general rule of thumb is that when the following 3 things are present, it is a good time to make an appointment to have your neck pain checked out. The 3 red flags to watch for are:
- You’ve been putting up with neck pain for more than 6 weeks
- It is severe and is not improving or even getting worse
- One other red flag (continue reading below) is present
The following list of red flags should be taken seriously. If you have more than one or two of these, it is possible that something serious may be going on in your neck and you need to seek immediate care. Keep in mind that these are reasons to be checked out by a doctor, not reasons to begin to worry. Most cases will turn out to be nothing.
- Lightly tapping on the spine becomes painful
- Mysterious fevers or chills – this is particularly important for diabetics to watch for
- Weight loss without dieting may indicate cancer
- The worst headache of your life, the inability to bend the head forward due to rigidity, fever, or altered mental state can all be symptoms of meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord due to an infection or a side effect of certain drugs.
- An artery tear will feel like severe, throbbing, or constrictive pain and this brings with it a very high risk of stroke. Pain is often the only sign of some tears. You will probably experience sudden, one-sided pain in both the head and the neck. The pain that accompanies is usually abnormal. You should immediately visit the emergency department.
- Spinal cord problems have many possible signs with or without neck pain. These may include poor hand coordination, a feeling of heaviness, weakness, diffuse numbness, atrophy, shooting pains in the arms and legs especially when bending forward, or awkward gait.
- Unexplained episodes of dizziness and/or nausea and vomiting can be indicative of a problem in the stability of the upper cervical spine
- Steroid use, other drug abuse, and HIV can be accompanied by neck pain
- Just a general feeling of illness along with neck pain can mean something serious is going on
- If it is an autoimmune disease causing neck pain, you may have other symptoms like rashes, problems with digestion, discharge from the urethra, pain in other joints and the lower back, irritated eyes, gradual and progressive increase in symptoms before age 40, a family history of autoimmune disease, and extreme morning stiffness.
Things That Are Not Red Flags
Things you do not have to worry about have to do with arthritis. Signs of wear and tear on the spine, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease are all things that produce neck pain but should not cause you immediate danger.
Sharp, stabbing, and shooting neck pains are usually false alarms as well. These are generally related to musculoskeletal problems.
A stiff neck can be serious, but it is very rare. If it is hard to bend forward and you feel like you have the flu, you can be concerned. Otherwise, it is probably nothing too serious.
Finding Help for Neck Pain
If you are bothered by neck pain, and it is not the kind you need to seek immediate medical care for, a visit to your local upper cervical chiropractor can prove to be very beneficial. We focus on making sure the top two bones of the neck are in proper alignment. If either the C1 or C2 vertebrae are out of place, they can be a likely source of neck pain. Using low force corrections to realign these bones may be all that is needed to help you see an improvement in your neck pain and feel better overall.
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