Is My Neck Pain Serious

In most cases, neck pain is caused by muscle strain that can arise from holding your head in an uncomfortable position, like using your shoulder to hold a phone to your ear or tilting the head to look at a computer screen for long periods of time. Sometimes, neck pain can arise from more serious causes, like whiplash or other injuries or diseases like fibromyalgia. Whatever the cause, most people are familiar with curious cricks in their neck that may make it difficult to turn their head, and some people may also experience headaches that begin at the base of the neck, or a cracking sensation when turning their head. Neck pain is common, and it can be debilitating, but most of the time, its cause is benign and it will resolve on its own. Sometimes, however, a doctor’s input may be recommended. If you have persistent neck pain, a medical examination can help you rule out any serious causes and proceed with pain management treatments to provide prompt relief.

If your neck pain is severe and persists for many days, or if the pain radiates down the limbs into the hands or feet, it may stem from a more serious cause, and you should contact your doctor. Medical care may also be recommended when neck pain is combined with certain other symptoms. In most cases, neck pain that signals a more significant medical concern is accompanied by at least one other symptom. These symptoms can include nausea or fever, headache, drowsiness, confusion or mood swings, or unexplained weight loss. If you have neck pain along with any of these other symptoms, consult with your doctor.

Serious conditions that can lead to neck pain range from infections like meningitis, to neurological disorders, degenerative disc diseases, and tumors. Meningitis is an infection of the membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. Symptoms of meningitis are often similar to the symptoms of flu, including fever and nausea accompanied by stiffness in the neck. Viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis, the two most common types of meningitis, can lead to brain damage, disability, or even death if not treated, but with prompt medical treatment it is possible to fully recover from meningitis. Another type of infection that can cause neck pain is vertebral osteomyelitis, which is an infection in the upper spine. Vertebral osteomyelitis also requires prompt medical attention, and its symptoms include chills and fever, weight loss, swelling, and pain that is worse at night.

With antibiotics, many patients make a full recovery from vertebral osteomyelitis, though other treatments may be recommended as well. Brain tumors that are located in the back of the skull, or in the neck or spine, can also cause the neck to feel stiff. These tumors can often be benign, but a proper medical evaluation can pinpoint the cause of dictate treatment. Finally, a neurological condition called cervical dystonia can cause muscle spasms in the neck; this condition is rare, appearing most often in middle-aged people, and symptoms usually resolve on their own.

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