About 80% of people will experience neck pain in their life. Why? Simply put, because the neck is one of the most mobile and complex parts of the body, with multiple moving parts and delicate structures that are constantly in use. Sometimes we sleep in the wrong position or crack our neck too hard or lift too much or sometimes, things just happen. You fell off your bike on your morning ride or you got a cut on the back of your neck and now it’s infected or maybe you’re just getting old.
Life happens and as it happens, our spine and neck start to deal with more and more issues. That’s why SpineMD and Dr. Anil Kesani are dedicated to making sure that your neck and spine are always receiving the best care, whether that’s nonsurgical checkups and maintenance or surgery. Not all neck issues are going to need surgery, so let’s discuss how to know whether it’s serious or not.
First, let’s talk about how the neck and spine deal with each other. The neck and spine are very closely related and are connected. The part of the spine that is present within the neck is referred to as the cervical spine. The cervical spine has several critical functions including connecting the skull to the thoracic spine, which is the part of the spine in the upper and mid back. The cervical spine protects the spinal cord and serves as a conduit for the spinal cord to send signals from the brain to your arms and legs. Basically, it’s the most important part of the body concerning movement and you should treat it that way!
Let’s talk about some common causes of neck pain. Let’s start with the most common and least serious of conditions: short-term soreness or tightness in your neck or upper back. Although neck pain is felt in the neck, it can originate from other sources, such as the upper back. You can feel soreness or tightness in your neck or upper back after a hard workout or even sleeping wrong, so unless it persists for a long period of time, I wouldn’t worry. At the most, you might have a neck strain, which means you tore a fiber in your neck. While this sounds serious, it generally isn’t. It can hurt a lot and it can hurt for a few days or a week, but they usually heal on their own.
Something a little more serious would be pinched nerves in the neck. How do you know you have a pinched nerve? When a nerve is pinched, it can’t send signals to your brain, so generally you either feel shooting pain, some sort of numbness or tingling, “pins and needles” or muscle weakness. These let the brain know that something is putting pressure on the nerve and that there needs to be something done to fix it. If you think you have a pinched nerve, there’s a few things you can do before visiting a doctor. For one, you need to get some extra sleep or at least rest more than usual because a pinched nerve needs time to recover. You should also use ice packs so as to reduce any possible inflammation or swelling, and after the inflammation has mostly settled if needed, you can use a warm compress, get a light massage so as to help relieve tension or sources of stress that may be causing the issue to worsen. If it hasn’t been fixed or if it’s worsened within a few days, visit a doctor ASAP.
Finally, let’s move onto some serious causes of neck pain, starting with fractured or broken neck bones. If you have been part of a major trauma involving your neck, go the doctor or hospital immediately! You may not feel it at first but delaying can cause serious life-altering conditions such as paralysis or death. Some other serious albeit rare causes of neck pain are tumors and autoimmune diseases. Not all the symptoms of a neck tumor are serious, but if you think you have a neck tumor, then you need to get an immediate attention. Some common symptoms of a neck tumor are a lump in the neck or throat, trouble swallowing, frequent coughing, sudden headaches, ear pain or a persistent sore throat. Lastly, some autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, lupus or type 1 diabetes can cause serious neck pain. Each condition can affect your neck and bodily function in some way, but there are no surefire symptoms to detect them.
Now, before you check WebMD and decide you have a neck tumor or an autoimmune condition, we would recommend visiting an actual doctor. These conditions aren’t always readily diagnosable based off a variety of symptoms (in fact, they rarely are), some which can’t be confirmed without imaging and bloodwork. If you think you may be suffering from any of these conditions or are concerned with your overall neck and spine care, make an appointment with Dr. Kesani at SpineMD today.
SpineMD is a clinic based in North Richland Hills serving DFW that focuses on spinal care. Our highly trained and experienced providers specialize in the treatment of all types of spine problems including back pain, neck pain, slipped or herniated disc disease, disc degeneration, pinched nerves and many more conditions. Our physicians are experts in the latest nonsurgical and surgical care including minimally invasive spine surgery, disc replacements, stem cell use among others as well as complex/redo spine surgery.