When is Neck Pain Serious?

Neck pain is usually non-serious and resolves within 2-6 weeks. Rarely, neck pain should be considered an emergency, or needs further treatment before seeing a physical therapist. Here are some situations where you should seek immediate medical attention:

Trauma or Accident: If your neck pain was caused by a slip or fall, bumping your head, or a motor vehicle accident, you should have a medical evaluation to make sure there is not a fracture or instability before seeing a physical therapist.

Numbness in the Hands or Fingers: Hand or finger numbness may be a sign that a nerve is pinched. Physical therapy can help with this, but if numbness is severe or progressing, you should see your physician.

Sudden or Progressive Weakness of Your Arm: Nerves in the neck supply the muscles of your arm, hand, and fingers. Sudden or increasing weakness of the arm may be a sign that your nerve is pinched, and further medical evaluation is needed.

Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control: Sudden changes in bowel or bladder control can be a sign that there is pressure on the spinal cord, and is considered an emergency condition. See a physician right away if you experience these symptoms.


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