Everyone has experienced neck pain at some point or other. Maybe you slept wrong, or had pain during or after a stressful situation. It happens. But sometimes, neck pain requires medical attention.
The experts at Apex Medical Center treat all kinds of pain syndromes, including neck pain. One thing we’ve noticed is that sometimes people can’t tell the difference between a run-of-the-mill ache and a more serious medical problem.
The anatomy of your neck
Technically, your neck is the top part of your spine, or the cervical spine. It has seven bones, named C1-C7 vertebrae. In between each of those vertebrae is a small disc that provides cushioning and shock absorption.
Your spinal canal is like a tunnel runs in the middle of the vertebrae and discs. It’s filled with cerebrospinal fluid and wrapped a protective covering called the dura. Nerves run through your spinal canal.
Problems with your vertebrae, discs, or nerves can cause pain. You may also feel pain if the muscles and connective tissues that support your cervical spine are inflamed, sprained, strained, or have other problems.
Some of the common causes of neck pain include:
- Sprains or strains
- Disc degeneration
- Narrowing of your spinal canal
- Muscle inflammation
- Traumatic injury
More rarely, neck pain can stem from serious medical conditions like cancer or meningitis.
Signs of serious neck pain
If your neck hurts but you can’t tell if it’s serious or not, here are some guidelines:
If you’ve recently gotten hurt in a car accident or had a sports injury, a fall, or any other kind of sudden injury, and your neck hurts either immediately or in the days after the injury you should seek medical care.
If your neck pain doesn’t go away or lessen over time, this persistent pain could be an indication of a problem that needs professional care.
Along with persistency, serious problems are usually consistent, which means you feel it all the time. If your neck hurts no matter what you’re doing, it could be related to a medical condition.
Another common sign of pain that is a symptom of a more serious problem is when that pain is radiating. If your neck hurts, and the pain seems to reach across your shoulder and down your arm, for example, you have radiating pain.
No relief from medication
Pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers should spur you to schedule an appointment.
If your neck pain has company — like numbness, headache, tingling, or weakness — you should talk to your doctor.
Get help for neck pain
Although modern life is often a pain in the neck, you don’t have to live with literal pain. Schedule an appointment at Apex Medical Center so an expert can evaluate your condition and help you find a path to pain relief.