Last week, we began to explore the subject of cervical (neck) pain. We defined what, exactly makes up the neck, then went through an exhaustive list of causes for neck pain.
This week, we will discuss the symptoms of neck injury, address when to see a physician and outlining how a physician diagnoses neck pain.
The first symptoms of neck pain are usually a knot, stiffness, or severe pain in your neck. The pain may spread to your shoulders, upper back, or arms. This is often accompanied by a headache. It may be difficult to move or turn your head and neck easily. If there is pressure on a spinal nerve root, you might have pain that shoots down your arm. You may also experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm.
If the neck pain is long-lasting (chronic), you may have trouble coping with daily life. Common side effects of chronic pain include fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
When Should I Seek Medical Care?
If severe neck pain occurs following an injury (motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall), a trained professional, such as a paramedic, should immobilize the patient to avoid the risk of further injury and possible paralysis. Medical care should be sought immediately. Immediate medical care should also be sought when an injury causes pain in the neck that radiates down the arms and legs.
Radiating pain or numbness in your arms or legs causing weakness in the arms or legs without significant
neck pain should also be evaluated.
If there has not been an injury, you should seek medical care when neck pain is:
Continuous and persistent
Accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms or legs
Accompanied by headaches, numbness, tingling, or weakness
Many patients seek orthopedic care for neck pain because physical therapists and orthopedists are specifically trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent problems involving the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Although some orthopedic specialists confine their practices to specific areas of the musculoskeletal system, most treat a wide variety of diseases, injuries, and other conditions, including neck pain.
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may also ask about any injuries, illnesses, or activities that may be causing your neck pain.
During the physical exam, your doctor will check how well you can move your neck. He or she will also look for tenderness or numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands.
If your pain started after an injury, or if it doesn't improve after a few weeks, your doctor may want to do more tests. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, an MRI scan, or a CT scan can show the neck muscles and tissues. These tests may be done to check the neck bones, spinal discs, spinal nerve roots, and spinal cord.
The type of treatment you need will depend on whether your neck pain is caused by activities, an injury, or another medical condition. Most neck pain caused by activities can be treated at home.
Next time, we will conclude this study of neck pain with treatment options, and perhaps more importantly; prevention measures you can take to avoid this common complaint.
If you are experiencing a neck pain, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personalized care from an experienced physical therapist!