How to Know When to See a Doctor for Your Neck and Spine

How to Know When to See a Doctor for Your Neck and Spine

How to Know When to See a Doctor for Your Neck and Spine | Let’s consider for a moment that you wake up one day with a sore neck, and/or dull pain in your back. More often than not, you grumble about it during the day, but generally speaking, you ignore your back pain and presume it to be a result of your previous night’s sleeping position. It’s no big deal, you think, and if it gets worse, you’ll take some pain medication (or sleep medication, but not both) and see how it goes. For the most part, back and neck pain that seems to emerge in the morning doesn’t generally cause you enough concern to seek out a treatment plan––and in this scenario, the following day the soreness has disappeared. Great––just remember to fluff your pillow, or consider getting a new one. To that end, neck pain isn’t usually serious and will disappear over a short amount of time.

However, let’s imagine that the pain didn’t go with a good night’s sleep or several nights of uninterrupted slumber. Despite the good bedding and the medication you’re responsibly taking, you’re still experiencing back pain. What do you do, then? Is a visit to the chiropractor in order, or are you just overreacting to the need for a new mattress? The truth is, you need to make a few other considerations, before deciding to go see a doctor about your spine.


If you do have a need to visit a doctor or a physical therapist’s office, then in all likelihood, you will be faced with Covid-19 mandated restrictions. Some physical therapist offices are insisting on calling ahead to book an appointment, and they may only offer teletherapy at this time. If you are going to be venturing out to have your spinal cord given a full MOT, then do maintain social distancing, and––as ever––wear a mask. You can use a scarf, a disposable, or even a full face respirator mask if you feel so inclined (and to be fair, judging by how strong the respiratory protection offered by Parcil Safety’s face wear is, no one would blame you)!

The Timing

In the hypothetical situations above, the pain was there from the moment you woke up. As such, it is easy to presume a causality there––often when we wake up with pain on any part of the body, Occam’s razor would dictate that it was something to do with how you slept. Of course, you don’t have to be a spine specialist to know that if you are lifting something, and you experience a huge amount of lower back pain, then it’s the process of picking up something heavy that has lead to your injury. This obviously narrows down the list of potential reasons for how you’ve come to experience significant discomfort in the spine region––being that you’ve put your back out (pulled the muscles around your spine or have a slipped disc). It may sound obvious, but it is worth noting––as it may not always be as straightforward.

So, as all spine experts will consider, waking up with a painful neck or back is most likely going to be caused by something going wrong with how you sleep. Yet, some conditions that result from accidents may not manifest themselves as spine pain until much later. Injuries to the vertebra from whiplash are often not noticed until a little while after the event, as is the subsequent neck pain, indicating the issue is small until then. Sometimes whiplash symptoms, which include numbness, dizziness, a ringing in the ears, and headaches may not present themselves until after the first week or month after the crash.

If this has happened to you, then you really should get as much in the way of details from the person responsible to claim on their insurance. Patient care and the costs of spinal treatment vary across the United States, but either way, it’s going to incur medical bills.

The timing of your spinal pain will be a clue as to its cause if it wasn’t necessarily obvious. With the cause of the back and neck soreness somewhat known, you might be able to make a more reasoned decision as to whether medical intervention is required or not.

Type of Pain

Similarly, the actual sensation of your spinal soreness is an indicator of the cause of the pain. A numbness and shooting pain across the neck and shoulders could be a result of a pinched nerve––which is something that would necessitate a visit to the Doctor’s office––or of a herniated disc. Either possibility would require an X-Ray, or potentially an MRI scan, to determine. A more dull ache could be the sign of bone tenderness from a degenerative condition such as osteoporosis.

Where You’re Hurting

If the pain isn’t limited to your neck and back, that doesn’t mean that your spine is off the hook. The body’s central nervous system runs throughout the entire body but branches from the spinal area. If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, headaches, or inflammation of the facial area, then it’s generally a good idea to look into your back as well––especially if you’re dealing with pain there too.

Though applying heat or cold compresses will alleviate muscle pain, should the pain pulse through, then you really should be speaking to a physical therapist.

Why It’s Important

All in all, it’s not really possible to know when to see a doctor for your neck or spine. The only relevant answer that can be given is if in doubt, to speak to one regardless. The spinal cord, and particularly the spinal nerves that radiate from your central nervous system, are vastly important. You only get one, and spinal surgery––which should be a final resort––is a meticulous thing. Though the cervical neck surgery recovery guide shows you can find ways to heal faster, it will still take a long time to recover from spine surgery. Any problems, from headaches to chronic pain, should get an opinion from a medical professional, because––to date––there’s no such thing as a replacement spine.

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