This Is When You Should Worry About Neck Pain

Are you experiencing neck pain or stiffness? Your neck contains the vertebrae at the top of your spine, muscles, and ligaments that all help support your head and movement. According to WebMD, your head weighs about 11 pounds, so your neck has a tough job. Causes of neck pain could be anything from poor posture to a heart attack. Everyone experiences neck pain occasionally, but determining the cause is crucial because it could be something serious (via Healthline). 

Neck pain is a vague term that can describe several different types of pain. 

You might have a stiff neck that feels sore and is painful or difficult to move. Or you could have stabbing or stinging pain that you feel in one spot on your neck. Another type of neck pain might be soreness or tenderness that isn't localized. You might have a radiating, burning pain that starts at your neck and goes down one or both shoulders and arms. Or neck pain that feels like tingling or burning sensations and radiates to other parts of your body. You could have neck pain that results in numbness or weakness in your arms or hands, making it difficult to pick up or move things. Sometimes neck pain comes with headaches (via Veritas Health). 

Here's when to see a doctor for neck pain. 

When to see a doctor for neck pain

Sometimes neck pain is caused by poor posture, which will go away on its own when you correct your posture. Other times you need to see your doctor to determine the cause of your neck pain.

See a doctor if you have neck pain that occurs with weakness or numbness in your arms and hands or if you have pain that radiates to your shoulder or arm. Other reasons to see your doctor are if your neck pain is severe, hasn't gone away in several days, radiates down your legs, or occurs with a headache (via the Mayo Clinic).

Per the Mayo Clinic, a common cause of neck pain and stiffness is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects your ability to move. Your doctor will do some tests, which may include removing some liquid from the affected joint, an MRI, or an X-ray (via the Arthritis Foundation).

Call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately if you have neck pain with any heart attack symptoms. Common heart attack symptoms are pain in your chest, shoulder, back, arm, shoulders, neck, or jaw, or discomfort, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded, nausea, or vomiting (via the American Heart Association).

See your doctor if you have neck pain with loss of bladder or bowel control or neck pain with fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss. These could be signs of a serious health condition such as meningitis or a neurological disorder. In addition, if you recently had an injury, you could be experiencing whiplash (via the Cleveland Clinic).