Neck Pain or spinal pain is an area of concern for most people. This concern is not unfounded because the spine is quite delicate and is one of the most important areas of our body that coordinates mobility, movement and supports our daily functions. A silver lining, however, is that most of the time, the aggravators of neck pain are not that serious. 

However, this does not hold true for those who’ve suffered neck pain due to an accident. The excruciating pain after an accident needs immediate doctor’s attention. In this article, we are exploring some of the non-obvious red flags for neck pain that are not that easy to ascertain and distinguish, but it is starting to worry you and affect your daily routine. This is an article that will help you explore, examine and identify your symptoms so that you can ultimately decide if it needs serious medical attention or not. 

Sometimes your recurrent neck pain can be a sign of something else- an infection, structural issue, joint pain, auto-immune diseases, and in serious cases-cancer. Sometimes these painful sensations are so intense that they can hardly be missed and you rush to emergency care to have them checked out. But in cases of mild and not so severe symptoms, it is more difficult to correctly identify what’s going on. However, if it persists for a long time, you should definitely get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible. 

To start with, here’s a barometer to help you identify your red flags. These are the signs that you should be looking for when searching for red flags for neck pain:

When Should You Worry About the Neck Pain?

  • It has been bothering you for more than a month. 
  • It is getting worse day by day and no form of preliminary treatment measures are working. 
  • The pain is intense and is constantly interfering with my daily work schedule.
  • If you have had a fall, or a sudden impact, where you fell on your back and have been getting these pains ever since you should definitely consult with a doctor. 

Now that we have the barometer ready, it will be easier for you to recognize a checklist that can help you identify and relate to the symptoms. It can also help during your consultation with the doctor when they ask you about your pain and the manifestations. This checklist will prove handy to determine your red flags and to design a treatment plan to help alleviate your painful symptoms. 

Also Read: Top 10 Tips to Prevent Neck Pain

Checklist to Determine Red Flags for Neck Pain

  • Whenever the affected area is touched (even a light tapping), it is quite painful. 
  • You have had severe weight loss ever since the pain started. 
  • Neck pain causes very severe headaches- it can affect your mobility, can lead to fever, and can cause inflammation. Sometimes a headache can just develop suddenly (called a thunderclap headache) 
  • Throbbing, sharp, and constrictive pain can be indicative of muscle tears in the temple or back of the skull. In severe cases, they are also indicative of a stroke, however, this should be carefully examined and checked out by a doctor. 
  • Your neck pain can be a sign of nerve damage or spinal cord issues. This is accompanied by poor hand coordination, tingling, numbness in certain areas, awkward walking stance, unable to get a full range of motion, etc. 
  • Neck pain can simultaneously occur with dizziness, nausea, vomiting which can be a signifier of something wrong with the upper spine. 
  • If you have been using steroids recently, or have been on some kind of drug medication, then neck pain can be a painful side effect. However, your neck pain may not always be the only negative side effect of this and can just be the surface level effect. Do get a doctor’s opinion if this matches your current scenario. 
  • Auto-immune diseases can also cause severe neck pain. These diseases are usually caused due to genetic markers and they progressively increase in their symptoms. With rashes, morning stiffness, trouble digesting, painful discharge, etc.

Reasons Not To Worry

Now that we know that there are some markers and signifiers for red flags, let us examine certain symptoms which might worry you but are usually not matters of serious concern. 

  • If you have arthritis, spinal stenosis, or herniated disks- chances are that your neck and spine pain are just symptoms of these classic wear-and-tear diseases. If you have been diagnosed with this, your X-Ray, CT, and MRI scans are proof enough of the fact that your neck pain is being caused due to the effects of these diseases. Once you are at a certain age, you are more prone to these diseases, either through genetic vulnerabilities or occupational and lifestyle reasons. Signs of these diseases are rarely serious and pain management can be effectively done by physiotherapy for neck pain, NSAIDs, massage therapies, postural correction, exercises, and lifestyle changes. 
  • These diseases are often accompanies by sharp, radiating pain which might seem quite intense but it is definitely not a reason for immediate worry. The pain might be a sign of a very common problem called herniated or bulging discs that can be easily treated by physiotherapy for neck pain, exercise and rest. Serious pains can severely affect your daily routines- it will leave you immoblized and unable to move, the pain will be throbbing and you might feel some loss in sensation in your limbs. This is a serious sign and should be checked by a doctor. 
  • Your brain is your prime bodyguard. You might be feeling sharp and shooting pains but the causes of these are usually relatively trivial. The brain becomes over-protective about minor issues and can make you feel like it is serious. This is because evolution has prepared our brain to help us survive in every condition possible, so even if it is a minor thing, the brain will make sure that our consciousness acknowledges the problem as soon as possible. 
  • Your body is built of complex, built-to-last systems that are not made to be affected that easily. Tak your spine for example. It is covered by a thick and compex system of nerves and are quite difficult to injure and irritate. Most of the spinal and neck issues are because of minor nerve irritation that can be easily treated with physical therapies and medicines.

Takeaways from This Article

  • Your neck pain, if manageable and not severely immobilizing, is not a sign of anything serious. It is because of mild irritation of the nerves and easily goes away within a few days. 
  • Most times, your neck stiffness and soreness can be due to lifestyle reasons like bad posture and looking at the screen for prolonged periods of time. 
  • If your neck stiffness persists for a long time along with other symptoms, that might be a reason for a visit to your doctor, but it is not that serious until your doctor says so. 

For more information about physiotherapy for neck pain, head over to Phyt Health. Phyt Health is India’s first digital physiotherapy platform using 3D Imaging and Artificial Intelligence to accurately capture your movements and recommend relevant treatment plans. On the physiotherapy app, you will find a wealth of exercises that are curated by expert physiotherapists that you can perform in the comfort of your own home.
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