What symptoms can people with neck pain have?
People can have different symptoms that include:
Pain, stiffness, or tightness in the neck, shoulders, upper back, or arms
Being unable to move or turn the neck
Pain when turning or tilting the head
Numbness or strange feelings (such as pins and needles) in the shoulders or arms
Trouble walking or moving the legs
Having no control over the bladder or bowels
Should I see a doctor?
You should see a doctor if you have:
- A severe injury to your head or neck
- Severe pain
- No control over your bladder or bowels
- Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
- Pain that doesn’t get better after you treat it at home for 1 week
Do I need to have tests?
Most people do not need any tests. Your doctor will do an exam. He will feel your muscles and check how your head and neck move.
But some people might need tests. Tests can include:
- X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, or other imaging tests – Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
- Muscle or nerve tests to see if the muscles and nerves work normally
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?
Yes. To reduce your symptoms, you can:
- Take a pain-relieving medicine
Massage the muscles that are tight or tense
- Put ice on the area to reduce pain – You can rub ice on the area for 5 to 7 minutes. Or you can put a frozen bag of peas or a cold gel pack on the area for 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day.
- Put heat on the area to reduce pain and stiffness – Take a hot shower or hot bath, or put a hot towel on the area. Don’t use heat for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Don’t use anything too hot that could burn your skin.
- Do neck exercises – Different exercises can stretch the neck, shoulder, and back muscles and help make them stronger. Ask your doctor or nurse if you should do exercises, and which ones can help your symptoms.
- Reduce stress – Stress can make pain worse and prevent symptoms from getting better. Try to reduce your stress. You can ask your doctor or nurse about exercises that can help you relax.
- Watch your posture – Try to keep your neck straight in line with your body and avoid activities that involve a lot of neck movement. When you sleep, keep your head and neck in line with your body. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.
What other treatments might I have?
Your doctor can use other treatments if your neck pain doesn’t improve after you treat it at home. For example, he might suggest that you see an exercise expert, called a physical therapist. Or your doctor can inject a numbing medicine into your neck.
Can neck pain be prevented?
To help prevent neck pain, you can:
- Use good posture – Hold your head up and keep your shoulders down.
- Avoid sitting in the same position for too long
- Avoid doing work above your head for too long
- Avoid putting weight or pressure on your upper back
- Keep your neck in line with the rest of your body when you sleep