Everyone experiences neck or back pain at some point in their lives. Usually, this type of pain goes away on its own without the need to see a doctor. However, that is not always the case and this issue could signify something serious. If you are wondering when should you visit a spine surgeon because of your neck pain, you’re not alone. Orange County spine surgeon Dr. Gerald Alexander’s website provides information on all sorts of spinal treatments and conditions that may necessitate a visit. He reminds us that while surgery is not always required, if it is, there are many minimally invasive and (often) outpatient treatments available.
There are certain signs that should alert you that it’s time to see a doctor. Here are several of those:
Your Pain Keeps You Up at Night
If you experience neck pain that keeps you awake at night, it’s a sure sign that you should go see a doctor. The same can be said if your pain worsens during the night, whether or not it prevents you from actually sleeping or falling back asleep. This pain is not life threatening, but it can adversely affect your overall health if you are not getting enough sleep.
At the same time, if you have pain that is accompanied by a fever, this is a warning sign you should definitely not ignore. Neck pain with a fever can be a sign that you may be suffering from meningitis, a serious infection that can be life threatening. In that case, you should immediately contact your doctor so that you can get quick treatment that can fight the infection.
You Have a History of Cancer
If you have had cancer in the past and are experiencing neck or back pain, it should be taken very seriously. This could be a sign that you might have colon, ovarian or rectal cancer. The American Cancer Society states that individuals who have one of these cancers can experience additional pressure on their nerves, organs or blood vessels while the cancer grows; as a result, there may be a symptom of neck or back pain. Unfortunately, in addition, this pain may not be present until after a cancerous tumor is large. It also means the cancer has already spread. If you have a history of cancer and feel neck or back pain, you should immediately contact and see a doctor.
You’re Over Age 50
When you get older, especially once you go past age 50, you’re more likely to experience neck and back pain. Women, in particular, are susceptible to such an issue. Generally, it can accompany perimenopause as it begins. Pain can also develop as a result of a suddenly more sedentary lifestyle or due to obesity, which can also occur when you don’t move around as much.
You Have Bladder or Bowel Issues or Weakening Legs
If you have neck or back pain that is accompanied by difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels or your legs have been weakening, you need to immediately seek medical care. These are symptoms of a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which is serious and requires emergency surgery.
You’ve Had a Fall, Accident or Other Type of Trauma
Neck pain that comes after a fall, accident or other type of trauma requires being seen by a doctor as well. Although you may initially feel well enough to get along like normal, the pain can become worse and may be more serious than you think. If you have osteoporosis, the situation is even more dire because there is a chance that you might have suffered a fracture after your incident.
Pain Radiates Down Your Leg or Arm
If you’re experiencing sciatica, a pain that radiates down one arm or leg that can also result in numbness or a pins and needles sensation, you should see your doctor. Generally, this problem is a signal that there is pressure on a nerve in the spine. The doctor can examine you to determine which nerves have been affected so that your treatment can be more effective. Usually, this type of nerve pressure comes as a result of a herniated disc.
Bending or Flexing Makes the Pain Worse
If your pain worsens when you bend or flex, it can signify that you have a problem with a disc in your neck or back. This can be a bulging or herniated disc or even a sign of degenerative disc disease.
Spinal stenosis can be another condition you may be experiencing when you have neck pain that won’t go away on its own. If you have weakness, pain, tingling and cramping in the legs in any combination, it’s a sign that you may have this condition. You should immediately speak with a doctor if you experience these symptoms.