How to Tell If Your Neck Pain Is Serious

Should you be concerned about that nagging neck pain that’s been bothering you for the past few days? Should you wait until it goes away or should you call a doctor? This slideshow shows you simple ways to tell whether your neck pain is serious.

It Could Be a Muscle Strain

Did you lift something heavy recently? Or maybe you slept wrong on your neck last night? If so, your neck muscles may have been hyperextended (you stretched them past their normal range), which may be causing the stiffness. Muscles strains in your neck usually aren’t serious, but that’s not always true. Watch your symptoms over the next few days. If they get worse, call your doctor.

It Could Be Whiplash

Whiplash can cause acute neck pain, which means your pain and soreness lasts a few days or weeks. It usually goes away on its own. But if you notice that your pain is getting worse or you develop other symptoms, such as weakness, numbness, and tingling, call your doctor right away. If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to get checked out. Sometimes ligaments can stretch and cause spine problems.

It Could Be Poor Posture

If you’re sitting hunched over a desk all day, tight neck muscles may be causing your neck pain. Chronically tense muscles never get a break, so work with a physical therapist or personal trainer who can teach you simple neck exercises as well as how to keep good posture.

It Could Be a Herniated or Bulging Disc

If you have neck pain that doesn’t go away—even with rest—it could be a herniated or bulging disc. This means an intervertebral disc in your cervical spine (neck) may be pressing on a nerve, which could be causing pain. Or it can cause pain down your arm and into your hand. Let your doctor know if you have these symptoms.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if your neck pain gets worse and you develop other symptoms, such as a numbness, weakness, dizziness, or loss of bowel or bladder control. It’s better to be safe when it comes to your neck health. The bottom line is that you never really know if that neck pain is serious or not, so don’t be afraid to speak up about your health.

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