Acute neck pain is discomfort that occurs suddenly within the region of the cervical vertebrae, the seven vertebrae that form the upper spine. This is different from chronic neck pain, which usually is defined as pain that lasts longer than three months. Acute pain normally can be attributed to a muscle strain or ligament sprain, damage caused by events like a car accident, or sleeping with your head in an awkward position.
Injuries that cause acute neck pain normally will heal over time. Your physician may suggest several methods to manage the pain while you heal:
- Rest to prevent further tissue damage
- Ice to reduce swelling
- Heating pad to improve blood flow
- Over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Therapeutic massage
- Cervical neck brace
Occasionally, acute neck pain can be an early sign of a more serious condition within the cervical spine. The first acute twinge of a pinched nerve or a herniated disc can develop into chronic neck pain if left untreated. That’s why it’s important to consult your physician if you suspect your neck pain may be caused by something other than the routine muscle stiffness we all experience now and then.
If conservative treatment is not enough to manage serious pain, your physician may suggest surgery as an option. Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can help you regain your life quickly, with less disruption than traditional open-back surgery. Contact LSI if your acute neck pain develops into something more serious. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and also review your MRI or CT scan for free.