Suffering from a sore neck is more common than you think.. However, you may wonder to yourself, “What if that crick in my neck is something more serious? Should I see a specialist?”

Then, if you are anything like so many of our patients, you immediately dismiss the idea of seeing a doctor as a “pain in the neck”! Yet severe neck pain, a stiff neck and headache could be a result of worn joints from repetitive motion, past  injuries such as whiplash, or illnesses such as fibromyalgia and meningitis.

Inside this guide, you will learn what to watch out for next time you experience sore neck muscles.

When to Call a Doctor for Neck Pain

If your neck muscle pain can be attributed to an injury caused by a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or diving accident, contact a doctor.

Other indications that you should promptly make an appointment for a medical evaluation include:

  • Severe pain
  • Ongoing pain that lingers for several days
  • Neck pain that spreads down your arms or legs
  • If your stiff neck causes weakness, tingling, numbness, or headache.

Neck Pain Can Signal Serious Disease

If your pain in the neck is related to a more serious disease, there is normally an accompanying symptom or two. The additional symptoms often present before you realize, “my neck hurts”.

Seek immediate care if you are also experiencing one or more of the following”

  • Fever – a sign of infection
  • Headaches that feel out of the ordinary (intensity, duration, or other symptoms)
  • Nausea and/ or vomiting
  • Fatigue or inexplicable drowsiness
  • Confusion, mood swings, or other mental changes
  • Coordination problems, for example, dizziness or trouble walking or writing
  • Unexplained weight loss.

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean there is something more serious. But it is highly recommended that you let your neck doctor rule out any underlying causes in case they need attention.

Uncommon Causes of Neck Pain Requiring Treatment

Common causes of neck pain include:

  • Strained neck muscles from poor posture and injuries
  • Worn joints, osteoarthritis, and mal positioned bones.
  • Herniated disks or bone spurs can compress nerves in your neck
  • Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders.

Without wanting to scare you, less common causes of neck pain may be:

  • Meningitis is an infection of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. Accompanied by flu-like symptoms, fever, and nausea.
  • vertebral osteomyelitis is an infection in the cervical spine and comes with fever, chills, unexpected weight loss, and swelling.
  • A tumor of the brain or cervical spine.
  • Cervical dystonia, or torticollis, is a neurological disease that causes uncontrollable neck spasms.

If you are at all concerned that a potentially serious underlying medical condition is causing your sore neck, rather be safe than sorry. Contact the Head and Neck Centers of Excellence without delay.