Chronic Neck Pain – When to See a Doctor

Types of Neck Pain

Neck pain is common. It ranges from soreness and stiffness with tightness to searing, stabbing pain that shoots down the arm. Chronic neck pain is pain that has lasted more than a few weeks. Some people have the neck pain from a car accident or falling down. Others have neck pain after an injury from football or soccer. Still others have neck pain without an injury or from arthritis.

When to See Your Orthopedic Specialist

So when should you go to see your orthopedic specialists for your neck pain? If the neck pain is mild and you just have mild stiffness, take some Motrin or other anti-inflammatory and give it a few days. If you are not better after a few days, call your doctor.

If you have numbness, tingling or weakness into your arms or legs or the pain is severe call your orthopedic doctor and see that doctor immediately. Nerve injuries can be permanent and cannot be neglected. Don’t blow-off or ignore the numbness to your fingers. If your hands feel weak or you find you are dropping things, this could be a sign of a nerve problem coming from your neck.

How Your Doctor Will Examine Your Neck

Any chronic neck problem requires an X-ray and possibly an MRI. X-rays will show arthritis and an MRI will show a herniated disc. Most importantly anyone with chronic neck pain should have a good physical exam by a competent doctor. The doctor must feel your neck and the muscles around the neck. Your doctor needs to examine each of the nerves coming off your neck by checking your muscles in your arms and checking that sensation is normal in both arms.

It is very rare that a neck problem requires surgery. Most importantly if you have chronic neck pain, see a reputable orthopedist and get it checked out before problems become permanent.

Dr. Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. He is the Director of Orthopedic Surgery at Westchester Sport and Spine and has subspecialty training in knee and shoulder surgery, including minimally invasive surgery and arthroscopy. Dr. Weinstein is a Board Examiner for the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons, determining certification for other orthopedic surgeons.