Although it’s rare, once in a while neck pain may be a warning sign of cancer, infection, autoimmune disease, or some kind of structural problem like spinal cord injury or a threat to an important blood vessel. Some of these ominous situations cause hard-to-miss signs and symptoms other than pain and are likely to be diagnosed correctly and promptly — so, if it feels serious, go get checked out. Otherwise, if you are aware of the “red flags,” you can get checked out when the time is right — and avoid excessive worry until then.
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
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Whiplash and other neck pain. There is no consensus on the effectiveness of manual therapies for neck pain. A 2013 systematic review found that the data suggests that there are minimal short- and long-term treatment differences when comparing manipulation or mobilization of the cervical spine to physical therapy or exercise for neck pain improvement. A 2013 systematic review found that although there is insufficient evidence that thoracic SM is more effective than other treatments, it is a suitable intervention to treat some patients with non-specific neck pain. A 2011 systematic review found that thoracic SM may offer short-term improvement for the treatment of acute or subacute mechanical neck pain; although the body of literature is still weak. A 2010 Cochrane review found low quality evidence that suggests cervical manipulation may offer better short-term pain relief than a control for neck pain, and moderate evidence that cervical manipulation and mobilization produced similar effects on pain, function and patient satisfaction. A 2010 systematic review found low level evidence that suggests chiropractic care improves cervical range of motion and pain in the management of whiplash.
Age, injury, poor posture or diseases such as arthritis can lead to degeneration of the bones or joints of the cervical spine, causing disc herniation or bone spurs to form. Sudden severe injury to the neck may also contribute to disc herniation, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, vertebral injury and, in extreme cases, permanent paralysis. Herniated discs or bone spurs may cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or the small openings through which spinal nerve roots exit. Pressure on a nerve root by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in:
Some skin problems on the neck can cause neck pain, but are usually obvious — most people will identify them as “skin problems on the neck” and not “a neck problem affecting the skin.” Herpes zoster (shingles) [CDC] causes a painful rash, cellulitis [Mayo] is extremely painful but superficial, and a carbuncle[Wikipedia] … well, it’s just a super zit, basically. If you can’t diagnose that one on your own, I can’t help you!
All treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis of your back pain. The chiropractor should be well informed regarding your medical history, including ongoing medical conditions, current medications, traumatic/surgical history, and lifestyle factors. Although rare, there have been cases in which treatment worsened a herniated or slipped disc, or neck manipulation resulted spinal cord injury. To be safe, always check with your medical doctor to make sure your condition will benefit from chiropractic or other pain relief alternatives.