We’ve all woken up and realized we’re going to have to get through the day without turning our heads because of neck pain. Neck pain can be startling and have a debilitating effect on your daily life. You’re ready for it to leave the instant it shows up, and much like any kind of spinal pain, it can be unnerving. You never know for sure how long the neck pain will last, and if it persists for a while, it’s easy to start worrying that you’re dealing with something more serious than a tweaked muscle.

At the Spine Institute of North America, we have a lot of experience with pain management in the neck, as well as signs of neck issues that are really serious. Neck pain can indicate something else like infection, injury, autoimmune disease, or cancer. The good news here is that when you have something as serious as an autoimmune disease or cancer, you usually have a bunch of additional symptoms that are pretty hard to miss. In today’s blog, we want to share some ways you can navigate neck pain and determine whether or not you need to get medical attention.

Use This Rule of Thumb When You Have Neck Pain

The following basics are a good starting point if your neck hurts. Hopefully, they will give you some peace of mind.

In order to seek medical attention, you need three red flags. These are conditions that solidly guarantee that something serious is going on, and if you have all three of them going on, it’s a good idea to contact a professional. Here are the three red flags:

  1. The pain is severe, and it isn’t getting better. It might even be getting worse.
  2. The pain has persisted for six weeks or more.
  3. You have at least one of the following symptoms going on. The more symptoms on the list below that you experience, the more important it is for you to contact a medical professional. Remember, these are all reasons to check, not to worry!

    • You aren’t dieting, but you’ve lost weight anyway.
    • You get sudden, severe headaches (called “thunderclap headaches”)
    • Your limbs feel heavy or weak, you experience shooting pain, you have general numbness, your gait is awkward
    • You get chills or fever for no reason (this is a particularly important sign if you are diabetic)
    • Just tapping your spine lightly causes pain
    • You can’t bend your head forward and/or you get intense headaches, you suffer fever and/or an altered mental state (all signs of meningitis)
    • Severe pain that is constrictive or throbbing, which is a sign of a torn artery and possible stroke. It is generally on one side and will cause weird pain in your neck and head (you will want to go to the emergency room)
    • Your family has a history of autoimmune disease, your pain is gradually getting worse and you’re younger than 40, irritated eyes, rashes, pain in the lower back, intense morning stiffness, difficult digestion.
    • You use steroids or abuse drugs.
    • You feel unwell in any other way and things aren’t getting better.

As you can see, neck pain by itself isn’t necessarily a sign that you are dealing with something very serious. However, if it won’t relent, you should definitely contact the experts to get some insight.

Contact the Spine Institute of North America

It’s impossible to live life to the fullest when you’re struggling with pain that prevents you from getting through daily basics. At the Spine Institute of North America, we are proud to offer world-class pain management and revolutionary treatments for any and all troubles that affect the spine. Contact us today!