Fact: The most serious causes of neck pain very rarely lead to severe pain, an autoimmune disease, spinal damage, or even cancer. Also, health concerns such as slipped discs are typically much less grave than most people dread. Although it may add to your discomfort, sharp pains and stiff neck are usually just false alarms, and most cases are still treatable.
When Neck Pains Should Be a Cause for Concern
- It’s time to seek medical advice about your neck pain if it has met the following criteria:
- You have been suffering from pain in the neck area for more than a month
- The pain is not dying down and is actually getting worse.
- You are experiencing other health concerns such as fever, nausea, weight loss, severe headache, very distinctive pain, and weakness anywhere else in your body.
- You are under the age of 20 or over 55
These criteria do not necessarily mean that you have a terrible condition; they are signs telling you that it’s to consult with your doctor. However, please keep in mind that you have to seek immediate medical attention if you’ve been involved in an accident or an emergency situation.
Specific Red Flags
Below are more specific red flags you should be wary of when it comes to neck pain and stiff neck. The more of these items you think you’re suffering from, the higher the possibility is that you may be experiencing something more severe. Keep in mind that these red flags are reasons for you to check your health and not immediately jump into conclusions that would just make you worry a lot.
- You experience pain when you tap lightly on your spine
- Losing weight without attempting to is a potential sign of cancer
- Chills and fevers, especially in diabetic people
- Incapability to bend the head forward or a massive headache
- An altered mental state
- Poor hand coordination
- Shooting pain in the limbs
- Unexplained episodes of nausea or dizziness
- Steroid use
- Drug abuse
- Neck pain that may be caused by an autoimmune disease usually involves a family history of the disease, stiff neck, and pain in other joint areas, slow but progressive increase in symptoms, difficulty in digesting, irritated eyes, rashes, and abnormal discharge.
The vertebrae, or the bones that are linked by the discs inside the spine, have a network of tough connective tissues and a network of muscles supporting them from within. Our spinal cord is also protected on all sides by the vertebrae. Any strain, damage, or tension put into any one of these parts can cause pain and discomfort.
The most obvious symptom is pain. It starts in the neck area then travels down to the shoulders and sometimes, down the arms or the back of your head. Stiff neck and shoulders are also evident. While not worrying signs, pins and needles typically occur. Either way, these conditions need to be checked as they may be tell-tale signs of a spinal nerve being misaligned or irritated. The pain usually gets better after several days and disappears within weeks.
When you are suffering from neck pain, even the slightest of movement may be challenging; you’ll need to get plenty of rest as much as you can. As long as you do not see any of the red flags we’ve mentioned above, it’s vital to stretch, exercise, and keep your neck moving to stop stiffness.
Gently move your neck in all directions every hour or so, and try to increase the movements steadily. If your job involves driving long distances or working at a desk all day, make it a point to stretch regularly. Never sit or stay in one position for prolonged periods, and keep your normal, day-to-day activities as much as possible.
Self-Care and Medication
Anti-inflammatory painkillers or paracetamol such as ibuprofen will help. Your doctor may also suggest some muscle relaxants if you are experiencing muscle spasms. Putting a heat pack or a hot compress over the painful muscles may also relieve your discomfort. You may also try to see other medical specialists, such as chiropractors, who specialize in treating stiff neck and other neck pains.
As for exercises, consider doing yoga, pilates, or the Alexander technique, which is a method for improving your posture, balance, and coordination.