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Neck Pain

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When To Call a Doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:

  • Neck pain occurs with chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath and nausea.
  • A person has signs of damage to the spine after an injury (such as a car accident, fall, or direct blow to the spine). Signs may include:
    • Being unable to move part of the body.
    • Severe back or neck pain.
    • Weakness, tingling, or numbness in the arms or legs.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

Recommended Related to Back Pain

Cauda Equina Syndrome Overview

Low back pain is very common. It affects millions of people. In most cases, you don't need surgery for low back pain. But in rare cases, severe back pain can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome (CES), a condition that usually requires urgent surgical treatment. People with cauda equina syndrome often are admitted to a hospital as a medical emergency. Here's what you need to know about cauda equina syndrome.

Read the Cauda Equina Syndrome Overview article > >

  • You have new or worsening numbness in your arms, buttocks or legs.
  • You have new or worsening weakness in your arms or legs. (This could make it hard to stand up.)
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowels.
  • You have long-term neck pain that suddenly gets much worse, and you did not cause it by being more active.
  • You have a history of cancer or HIV infection, and you have new or increased neck pain.
  • Pain wakes you from sleep.

For more information, see the topic Neck Problems and Injuries.

Watchful waiting

Most neck pain doesn't require a visit to a doctor.

If the pain doesn't get better after 1 or 2 days and you can't do your normal daily activities, call your doctor.

If you still have mild to moderate pain after at least 2 weeks of home treatment, talk with your doctor. He or she may want to check for problems that may be causing your neck pain.

Who to see

Health care professionals who often diagnose the cause of neck pain include:

If your neck pain is severe or long-lasting, health professionals who can treat you include:

You can also get care from:

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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