Neck pain isn’t always an isolated issue.
Sometimes the pain you feel in your neck can lead to other symptoms – and these can be worrying, although not necessarily serious.
What are the conditions that are linked to neck pain?
While neck pain is usually from a sprain or other injury, or a lifestyle habit such as unhealthy posture, when combined with other symptoms it can be a sign of conditions such as a pinched nerve, and, in rare cases, cancer.
While it’s good not to panic about neck pain because most cases aren’t serious, if you’re experiencing pain in your arms and hands, weakness, or numbness, you should get checked out by your doctor.
Here’s what could be going on.
- 1 You Might Have A Pinched Nerve
- 2 Neck Pain: When It’s A Pain In The Shoulder
- 3 Your Hands Can Also Be Affected By Neck Pain
- 4 What About Neck Pain And Headaches?
- 5 The Importance Of Diagnosing Neck Stiffness
- 6 What To Know About Neck Pain And Cancer
- 7 Related Questions
- 8 Conclusion
You Might Have A Pinched Nerve
When people speak of a pinched nerve, they’re actually referring to cervical radiculopathy.
This is when a nerve in the neck becomes compressed at the point where it moves away from the spinal cord.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs in the cervical spine, so the seven vertebrae that form the neck are affected, as OrthoInfo reports.
Common symptoms associated with a pinched nerve include pain that moves into the shoulder, muscle weakness, and muscle numbness that will radiate into the arm and hand.
You can get cervical radiculopathy if you’ve had an injury that caused a herniated disc, but it can also occur as a result of aging in the spine.
Although cervical radiculopathy sounds scary, it usually goes away without any treatment but it might take a long time to do so.
If it doesn’t get better, then a doctor will suggest treatment that could include wearing a soft cervical collar to reduce neck movement, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), having steroid injections, or going for physical therapy.
Neck Pain: When It’s A Pain In The Shoulder
If you’re suffering from neck pain that’s affecting your shoulder, you might worry that it’s something serious, but that’s not always the case.
There are many different reasons why you could be experiencing shoulder pain along with neck pain.
- You might have an injury to your tendons, ligaments, or soft tissues, such as from an injury or arthritis.
- You might have bursitis. The joints have sacs over them to protect them, but these sacs, known as bursae, can become sore or stiff after injury.
- Rotator cuff injuries. There are tendons in the shoulder that support it, and they’re known as rotator cuffs. These can become injured, such as during sports or repetitive movements, and can cause what’s known as a frozen shoulder. This is when the shoulder’s range of motion becomes limited.
There are also some health conditions that can cause pain in the neck and shoulder. One of them is a heart attack.
When pain from the heart is felt in the neck or shoulder, this is a classic example of referred pain.
You might also experience symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms, as The Heart Foundation reports that some people who’ve had heart attacks have experienced these symptoms.
Another health condition is gallbladder disease that can affect the right shoulder specifically.
If you’re experiencing extreme pain or it worries you, then it’s always best to consult with your doctor about it.
Your Hands Can Also Be Affected By Neck Pain
It might seem strange to think that your neck pain can travel all the way down to your hands, causing numbness, weakness, and pain, but the body’s connected!
- If a nerve root in the neck has become irritated or compressed due to a condition such as a herniated disc or a bone spur, then tingling, numbness, and weakness can be felt in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
- A bone spur is a growth on a bone that can become problematic if it rubs on nearby bones, tendons, or nerves.
- A herniated disc is when the contents of a disc bulge out. This can also cause weakness or numbness in the limbs, and symptoms can be intensified if the disc is pressing on a nerve.
What About Neck Pain And Headaches?
If you’re experiencing a headache and neck pain, you might wonder if the two are connected.
If you’re getting a headache from neck pain, there’s a name for it: cervicogenic headaches.
In addition, you might experience cluster headaches, which are usually short but extremely painful headaches that come from pain that’s in the back of your neck.
The head pain you’ll experience from neck pain depends on what cervical nerve is affected. It might be sharp or shooting pain or a dull aching that’s persistent.
If you’re experiencing a neck headache, you might also experience other symptoms, such as neck stiffness when you move your neck or a headache that gets worse when you move your neck; weakness in your arms from inflammation of the cervical spine; tingling sensations over your arm and shoulder blade; and tingling or “pins and needles” at the base of your skull, as ReachMD reports.
However, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Your pain continues for weeks, even after trying home remedies
- Your neck has led to your arms feeling numb
- You have neck pain from an injury
- Your stiff neck is combined with a headache and/or high fever
- You’ve got blurry vision
- You’re having seizures
- Your speech is slurred
- Your temples feel tender
- Your eye is red and painful
The Importance Of Diagnosing Neck Stiffness
Sometimes your neck pain is actually stiffness.
It’s common for neck pain to be linked to symptoms such as stiffness, soreness, and pain that radiates to the arms, or tingling sensations.
While this could be a result of an injury, there are other health conditions of which it could be a symptom.
When is neck stiffness an emergency?
When it presents with symptoms such as high fever, a headache, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness or fatigue, dizziness, weight loss, mood swings, and confusion.
Many of the symptoms listed above can be associated with bacterial meningitis. This is a dangerous bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the spinal cord and brain.
It’s regarded as the most common serious condition that’s linked to a stiff neck, as Spine Health reports.
Early symptoms include a headache, stiff neck, and fever. It’s especially a red flag if you can’t move your neck forward.
You need to treat meningitis quickly to prevent complications, and treatment can consist of intravenous antibiotics.
What To Know About Neck Pain And Cancer
If you’re experiencing neck pain, you might worry that it’s cancer. Here’s what you need to know.
Head and neck cancers account for roughly four percent of all cancers in the United States, as The National Cancer Institute reports.
Head or neck cancer can display symptoms such as persistent pain in the neck, and could even include a swelling or sore that doesn’t get better.
The tricky thing is that there are usually other symptoms that can point to cancer, but these can be associated with other health conditions too.
Examples of these symptoms include unusual nasal discharge, regular nosebleeds, difficulty chewing or swallowing, regular headaches, ear pain, and swelling in the face, as Healthline reports.
Other important symptoms to look out for include a change in your voice, such as if it becomes hoarse. This could be a sign of throat or thyroid cancer.
In addition, persistent enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck is a common sign associated with head and neck cancer, such as the mouth and salivary gland cancer.
What is chronic neck pain?
When your neck pain has lasted for longer than three months, this is referred to as chronic pain.
When dealing with neck pain, a good idea is to try home remedies, such as applying heat to the area, but if these don’t help it’s best to consult with a doctor as other treatment might be required.
Why does your neck make a grinding sound?
Neck cracking could be as a result of gas bubbles that form in synovial joints and create popping sounds, but they’re not harmful, as Spine Health reports.
In addition, neck crackling can be a symptom of osteoarthritis when cartilage wears away and bones rub against each other.
As can be seen in this article, there are many different reasons why you might be experiencing neck pain with arm or hand pain, numbness, and weakness.
Fortunately, many causes of these symptoms are not serious and can be treated with home remedies, medicine, or physical therapy.
However, there are some conditions that are a bit more serious and they can present as pain, weakness, and numbness.
Instead of making you worry that your neck pain is something serious, learning about them should empower you to know the red flags so that you don’t hesitate to give your doctor a call.