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When Should You See a Doctor for Neck Pain?

By Dr. Ashish Gupta in Neurosciences , Neurosurgery

Aug 23 , 2017 | 2 min read

In many cases, faulty ergonomics at workplace, poor posture are causes of neck pain and causing our muscles to get overworked while we are working in these positions, as a result causing fatigue. It may also be true that a neck pain may be due to an injury, so it is important to rule out if there is any fracture of bones or neck or disruption of soft tissues that hold the bone in normal alignment.

Dr. Ashish C Gupta says that underlying changes in the discs or small joints of the neck can cause muscles to ache. And as our age increases the degenerative or spondylotic changes begin to happen in our spine, thereby causing severe neck pain.

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis are particularly known to affect the neck.

What can you do?

  • Spend less time in front of the computer or change the height of the monitor
  • Avoid hunching, stand tall with chest sticking out
  • Refrain from using phone for hours on one side of the neck
  • Take warm showers, apply local ointments

When should you see the doctor?

See a doctor if neck pain develops following an injury. Moreover, it is recommended to contact a physician in these situations.

  • The pain is severe or lasts for more than a few days
  • Neck pain travels into the arms
  • Neck pain is usually accompanied by weakness, numbness in the arms or legs or sometimes a severe headache

What is Cervical Disc Herniation?

Cervical disc herniations (ruptures) are a common problem that can lead to neck pain and symptoms that radiate down the arms to the fingers. These discs are the soft material that are located between the bones of the neck. This material acts as a cushion or shock absorber that decreases the stress between the bones and allows free neck movement. When they become weak, they can tear or rupture, causing the disc material to herniate or bulge outward. This can bulge to the point where they push on the nerves and the spinal cord, which can lead to nerve problems.

Is surgery always required for cervical disc herniation?

The surgeon will perform an extensive neurological examination to detect any neurological signs and symptoms of nerve damage. In severe cases, the disc not only pinches the nerves which exit the spine, but also the spinal cord which is a serious and potentially catastrophic situation. However, most patients do not need an immediate surgery and can try numerous non-operative treatments to attempt to resolve the pain. The conservative therapies like rest, anti-inflammatory medications, cervical collar, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and physiotherapy can provide you some relief.

If all the conservative options fail, then the clinician might suggest you with the surgical options as the latter have a higher success rate. The urgency of the surgery is not the same for all patients and the timing has to be individualized based on the patient’s condition.

Is spine surgery safe?

The risks of spine surgery are like any other general surgical procedure. The selection of patients is the key concept in the successful outcome of spine surgery. Modern cervical spine surgery is completely safe provided it is performed at a center equipped with latest equipment like operating microscope, image intensifiers, endoscopes, and navigation equipment. 

Most patients suffering from a cervical disc disease improve with a carefully implemented treatment program without the need for surgery. The important points are to make sure that you see your doctor in time so that the condition is amenable to conservative treatment.