Neck Pain: When to See A Doctor

Most neck pain is caused by muscular spasms or muscle strain and gets better without any specific medical treatment. However, you can try some these self-care methods mentioned below to alleviate the discomfort.

Self-care Methods to Reduce Neck Pain

Heat or ice application to reduce neck pain

Apply an ice pack to the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time, two to three times per day. Taking a hot bath or even applying moist heat (heating pad) for approximately 20 minutes at a time often provides neck pain relief as it relaxes the strained muscles and reduces the tension.

Work on your posture to reduce neck pain

Very important. Most of us work on a computer on a daily basis and it is of utmost importance that we sit straight, providing support to our back. It is also important to ensure the computer screen is at the eye level. Sitting on a proper chair that provides back support may do the trick. Sometimes, it is something as simple as that.

Stretching and Massage to Reduce Neck Pain

Gentle stretching of the neck muscles by turning neck side to side and up and down for a number of times daily, along with some gentle massage over the sore area may also be helpful in reducing your neck pain.

Over the counter medications to Reduce Neck Pain

Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or Naproxen may be helpful, but please check with your primary care physician if you have any specific contraindication.

When to Seek Medical Help For Your Neck Pain

  • If your neck pain continues despite the above mentioned self care management
  • If your neck pain is actually getting worse with the above mentioned self care management
  • If your neck pain is radiating pain down the shoulder, arms, or hands with or without numbness or tingling 

When to Seek Immediate Medical Care For Your Neck Pain

  • Trauma: e.g. a motor vehicle accident or a Fall. Even without initial significant neck pain, it is wise to seek medical help immediately and get checked by an orthopedic doctor.
  • High Temperature: Neck pain along with the presence of a high fever should be taken very seriously, and you should go to the E.R. as soon as possible. This is a sign of meningitis – a serious medical condition which, if not treated properly, could turn out to be fatal
  • Neck Pain Along with Weakness: if you’re experiencing weakness in your arms or legs you should take this condition seriously and get checked out ASAP.

Important: Neck pain can be a referred pain from a heart attack

If you have symptoms of a heart attack along with neck pain, such as shortness of breath, sweating, pain in your arm, nausea, or jaw pain with or without chest pain, you should seek immediate medical help and go to the nearest E.R.

Orthopedic Doctor Dr. Rahman is a fellowship trained, practicing Physiatrist and Pain Management specialist and partner at Westchester Sport and Spine. Dr. Rahman has subspecialty training in Musculoskeletal and Interventional Pain Medicine and focuses on conservative, non-invasive treatments for most conditions.