Don’t medically investigate neck pain until it’s met at least three criteria: (1) it’s been bothering you for more than about 6 weeks; (2) it’s severe and/or not improving, or actually getting worse; and (3) there’s at least one other “red flag” (age over 55 or under 20, painful to light tapping, fever/malaise/nausea, weight loss, nasty headache, severe stiffness, very distinctive pain, and numbness and/or tingling and/or weakness anywhere else). Note that signs of arthritis are not red flags.
Determining a treatment strategy depends mainly on identifying the location and cause of the irritated nerve root. Although neck pain can be quite debilitating and painful, nonsurgical management can alleviate many symptoms. The doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the pain or inflammation and muscle relaxants to allow time for healing to occur. Reducing physical activities or wearing a cervical collar may help provide support for the spine, reduce mobility and decrease pain and irritation. Trigger point injection, including corticosteroids, can temporarily relieve pain. Occasionally, epidural steroids may be recommended. Conservative treatment options may continue for up to six or eight weeks.
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.
I’ve never really considered going to a chiropractor—I’m healthy, moderately active and I don’t really have much pain on a regular basis. But I work for a health and wellness company that encourages its employees to take an active role in their health, and many of my coworkers swear by their chiropractors. I wasn’t sure what a chiropractor could really do for me, but after a bit of word-of-mouth research, I found out that chiropractic care actually has benefits for your whole body! So I decided to give it a try.