Pain in the cervical region is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor. Underlying causes of the discomfort may range from something as minor as a neck strain from sleeping on too many pillows to something severe such as bacterial meningitis which may be life-threatening.
- Pain with rotation or flexion/extension of the neck
- Pain across the upper shoulder region
- Stiffness in the muscles which move the head and neck
- Swelling of the muscles which move the head and neck
- Band-like tightness around the head (tension headache) which may result from an extension of neck muscle pain and vice-versa
Who is at risk?
Anyone may be at risk for neck pain. While we may suspect more serious causes of neck pain in certain age groups such as meningitis in small children or college age young adults, we may see neck stiffness and pain from minor injury in any age group. One of the most common presenting histories accompanying neck pain is that of being rear-ended in an automobile, which usually results in a muscle strain to the neck and upper back muscles. Another common source of neck pain in middle age groups and seniors is pain from osteoarthritis, which is simply the wearing out of the discs and vertebrae which make up the spinal column. It should be noted that neck pain accompanied by headache and fever can be ominous signs indicative of meningitis.
Treatment depends upon the source of the pain. Anyone suspected of neck pain from meningitis should be evaluated by a physician immediately. If the physician suspects meningitis as an origin of your discomfort, he/she may perform a lumbar puncture to extract fluid from your spinal column for testing. Meningitis is potentially life-threatening and will likely require your admission to the hospital for observation and continued treatment with IV antibiotics.
Musculoskeletal sources of neck pain are usually treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medication such as Motrin or Aleve and possibly a muscle relaxer which may be prescribed by your doctor. Ice may be applied to the muscles of the neck in the event of an acute injury. Heat may allow some relaxation of the muscles when an older injury or arthritis is suspected as the cause of the pain.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
See a doctor immediately if you have neck pain associate with a headache and fever. This needs to be evaluated immediately for the possibility of meningitis.
You should also seek attention for neck pain resulting from a serious accident, such as falling from a roof or being in a rollover accident in a vehicle. Mechanisms of injury such as these may result in a fracture to the bones in the neck or back. If you suspect this, you should have someone call 911 immediately and lie still until the paramedics can immobilize your neck and spine for transport. Careless treatment of a neck or back fracture may result in paralysis or death, depending upon the level of the injury.
Neck pain treatment is available now at Newport Urgent Care in Newport Beach, CA.
For more information on neck pain, see the following websites:
Neck Pain Review by Mayo Clinic
Neck Pain by MedicineNet.com
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of NewportUrgentCare.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.