Neck pain may result from a degenerative, progressive condition that affects the vertebrae in the cervical region of the spine, but most often it is caused by acute injury or an abrupt or awkward motion in the neck. These acute causes may include sudden impact or flexion associated with sports injuries or car accidents, for example.
Arm or shoulder pain may result from an injury to the cervical spine, as well.
Other conditions or causes such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, stenosis, whiplash, poor posture or herniated discs may lead to neck pain.
Neck pain resulting from acute injury may occur immediately or rapidly after an incident, but the onset may also be more gradual in nature, often delayed by a few days. Aside from general pain in the neck area, patients may also experience the following:
Most neck and arm pain resolves after a few days with conservative care, including rest and basic medication to manage pain, at home.
If your pain worsens over time or does not improve after a few weeks of self-treatment and rest, you should schedule an appointment with a Campbell Clinic back and spine specialist to determine the cause of your symptoms.
Your physician will likely recommend anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), home exercises, muscle relaxants and may prescribe physical therapy. A brace or cervical collar may help the neck heal and strengthen, as well.
You should schedule an appointment immediately if you have radiating pain down your back, legs or arms, if the pain is extreme or debilitating, or if it’s severe enough to cause migraine headaches or nausea.
Seek emergency medical care immediately for neck pain associated with a traumatic accident or injury, or pain that accompanies loss of muscle function or high fever.