If you’re dealing with neck pain, we know how frustrating it can be. Most neck pain isn’t caused by a serious underlying medical issue, and could be a minor inconvenience. Or it might be excruciating, disrupting your life and making even simple tasks a challenge.
So how can you tell when it’s time to seek medical attention? Board-certified physicians Talal Ghazal, MD, and John Huffman, MD, and the team at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists (IPRMS) in Arlington, Virginia, are here to help you decide
Here are five signs that your neck pain needs treatment and the ways we can bring you relief.
1. Neck pain after an impact injury
When you sustain an impact injury, such as being involved in a car accident or having a collision during a sports game, it’s not unexpected that neck pain follows. But while most sore necks can be managed with rest and at-home care, neck pain that follows an accident or impact injury should be evaluated by a medical professional.
If you have neck pain after an impact injury, it may be because of an underlying medical issue and may require medical treatment for a complete recovery. Your IPRMS provider evaluates many factors, including any pre-existing conditions that might affect your spinal health, to determine the nature of your injury and the best treatment.
2. Neck pain with numbness or tingling in the neck or arms
If you’re experiencing neck pain accompanied by numbness or tingling in your neck and/or arms, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a neck specialist. This is because numbness or tingling is generally caused by a problem with your nerves or spinal cord.
Many health conditions can lead to neck pain with numbness or tingling, including issues such as:
- Herniated disc
- Pinched nerve
- Cervical stenosis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cervical spondylosis (arthritis)
Keep in mind that while most of the above conditions have effective treatment options, they require a medical professional’s diagnosis and intervention.
3. Neck pain with swelling in your neck or upper back
Neck pain with swelling in your neck or upper back should always be assessed by a medical provider. Sometimes the cause of neck pain with localized inflammation is minor, like a swollen lymph node when you have a viral infection or cold or muscle strain from poor posture.
But more serious issues can also cause similar symptoms, such as a herniated disc or fracture in the vertebra. In addition, even non-life-threatening issues, like muscle inflammation from poor posture, can lead to more significant problems if not addressed in a timely manner.
4. Neck pain with muscle weakness
If you’ve noticed your neck pain is accompanied by muscle weakness in your arms or hands, it’s a sign that your condition needs treatment. The neck houses part of the spinal canal, which has the nerves and other structures that send signals to and from your brain to other body parts.
When a structure in your neck is injured or damaged, it can put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels around the spine. This can interfere with the delivery of nerve signals and blood supply in other areas, causing your hands and arm—even your legs—to feel weak.
5. Neck pain with sudden balance issues
Suddenly struggling with your balance while experiencing neck pain can be disconcerting. And it’s definitely a sign to set up an appointment with your doctor. It can be challenging to know if the neck pain and dizziness are related or separate issues, and a comprehensive evaluation is required to get to the root of the symptoms.
While neck pain with dizziness or balance troubles can be caused by a neck condition called cervicogenic dizziness or cervical vertigo, it could also be related to other issues, such as inner ear problems, traumatic brain injury, or stroke.
Effective treatments for neck pain
At IPRMS, our providers create personalized neck pain treatment plans to meet your specific needs and preferences. Most patients begin with conservative treatments, progressing to additional interventions as required. Your neck pain plan may include one or more of the following:
- Improving posture
- Heat and cold therapy
- Diet and exercise improvements
- Oral or topical pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxers or prescription medications
- Massage, physical, acupuncture, or chiropractic therapies
- Epidural steroid or facet joint injections
- Medial branch nerve blocks
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)
- Intrathecal drug delivery (IDDS)
Have more questions about neck pain or feel like it’s time to seek medical treatment? Schedule an appointment online or over the phone with a provider at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Northern Virginia today.