Muscle irritations are usually easy to self-diagnose. They typically come on after prolonged activity, a period of overuse or prolonged postures that put excessive strain on your neck muscles. But they usually get better on their own within a few days to a couple of weeks. If you don’t see improvement within a week or two, see your doctor.
Also see your doctor if the following signs and symptoms occur:
–Severe pain from an injury. After head or neck trauma, such as whiplash or a blow to your head, see your doctor immediately. Severe pain over a bone might indicate a fracture or an injury to a ligament.
–Shooting pain. Pain radiating to your shoulder, shoulder blades or down your arm, or numbness or tingling in your fingers may indicate nerve irritation. Neck pain from nerve irritation can last from 3 to 6 months or longer. Because serious problems may occur after continued nerve irritation, see your doctor.
–Chronic pain that doesn’t improve. Any long-term pain that doesn’t improve with simple self-help remedies requires evaluation.
–Pain at night. Pain at night that doesn’t respond to self-care measures can signal a more serious disease or condition.
–Loss of strength. Evidence of weakness in an arm or a leg, such as dropping things, leg stiffness and foot shuffling, indicates the need for immediate evaluation.
–Changes in bowel or bladder patterns. Nerve or spinal cord compression in your neck can cause changes in bowel and bladder habits, such as loss of bladder control or function, and should receive prompt medical evaluation.
–Neck pain associated with pressure or pain in your chest. This type of pain, or neck pain associated with exertion, may be related to heart problems and requires immediate evaluation.
(Source: Mayo Clinic website at www.mayoclinic.com)