Most of us have experienced neck pain at some point in life. Most neck pains are benign and get better within 6 weeks. One need not worry about these muscular or postural neck pains which would typically disappear or start improving within a couple of weeks of their onset. A few sessions of Physiotherapy will help in cutting short the recovery period from this kind of a muscular/postural neck pain. Following is a list of warning signs (RED FLAG SIGNS) that warrant a visit to a Spine Specialist:
- Neck pain lasting more than 6 weeks
- Frequent episodes of neck pain > 3 episodes in 6 months
- Neck pain in a child < 15 yrs or in seniors > 65 yrs
- Neck pain associated with fever, weight loss, loss of appetite
- Neck pain at night time or when one is resting
- Neck pain associated with pain/tingling/numbness in either arm
- Neck pain associated with difficulty with balance (can be tested by trying to walk along a straight line [The drunken driver’s test] or doing fine motor activities with your hands (like buttoning your shirt, messaging on a mobile or typing on a computer)
- Neck pain associated with an electrical sensation going down your body on movement of their neck.
- Neck pain associated with change in urine and stool pattern including loss of control or retention
- Neck pain following a fall or an accident
- Neck pain associated with loss of ability to look up to the ceiling, look behind by turning your neck and touch your chin to your chest
- Neck pain with a past history of cancer
- Neck pain with a history of use of steroids or other immunosupressants
- Sudden increase in neck pain in a known case of Rheumatoid arthritis or Ankylosing Spondylitis
If any of these Red Flags are present then your Spine Specialist will order atleastXrays on your neck and may order an MRI of the Cervical Spine (Neck). [Hyperlink to Spine Health Package]
After ruling out more serious pathologies, the most common cause of neck pain lasting more than 6 weeks is cervical spondylosis. Few sessions with a Physiotherapist, some medicines and lots of isometric neck exercises (CLICK HERE FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO) will control most cases of cervical spondylosis.
Rarely, a surgical procedure like Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) or an Anterior Cervical Disc Replacement (ACDR) will be needed to cure your neck pain. An epidural steroid injection may help some specific cases with refractory neck pain.