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Neck Pain, Pinched Nerve, When Do You Need a Doctor Immediately

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in March of 2021. For the original video go to

Bob: Today we're going to talk about neck pain, pinched nerve, when do you need to see a doctor immediately? Brad, we're going to actually break this down into two categories. The first category is not as urgent, but you should schedule an office visit. You should see a doctor. But two is when you probably should seek emergency medical care right away. So let's start off with the first one, Brad, for an office visit, if your neck pain just keeps worsening, despite your self-care, it's probably time to go in and see a doctor and make sure something serious isn't going on.

Brad: Right, right.

Bob: You may need physical therapy, so you need to see the doctor.

Brad: If it's restricting your sleep, and it's getting no better, or getting worse after two or three nights. You can't sleep. I mean, you've got to get sleep, things don't heal well if you don't sleep.

Bob: That's right.

Brad: It's just a bad situation.

Bob: It landslides, in the wrong direction. If the pain is radiating down your arm or legs, especially your legs, that means that could be really serious, and it seems to be from your neck, I would definitely go in and see a doctor then.

Brad: To be clear, pain could be numbness, tingling, burning, feels like cold water's running down your arm. All those things are associated with a nerve being irritated.

Bob: Those weird sensations. It's amazing, if want a variety of different sensations, get a nerve involved.

Brad: Right, yup.

Bob: If neck pain it's accompanied by headache, numbness and tingling, I would probably go in too. Especially if it comes on suddenly and it's the first time you had it, then it might be an emergency. So if you're one that normally doesn't get headaches, and all of a sudden you get a headache, and a numbness and tingling, yeah.

Brad: Especially if you look up and that gets you a headache, or dizziness associated with some head movement.

Bob: Sure, sure. If the pain is so bad, like Brad kind of indicated before, it's just affecting your normal activities and your sleep, it's time to go in. You know, you’re sick of it.

Brad: Like, I had that pretty severe bout a couple of weeks ago, but it happened on a Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night were very uncomfortable, but by Wednesday it started getting better.

Bob: Well, you know what you're doing, too. And you knew what caused it, too.

Brad: Right, right. But probably if it's not better within a week, you have to get it checked out.

Bob: Yeah, that's the next one, Brad.

Brad: Oh!

Bob: If it lasts for weeks, it's time to go in and check it out. We talked about tingling, if there's any tingling in any part of your body, emanating, it seems to be, from your neck, check it out. If it comes with urinary or bowel incontinence. Now this is actually an emergency. I don't know why I've got that in office, I would say that's more of an emergency.

Brad: Right, yeah if you cannot control your bowel movements, or your bladder control is clearly thrown off, and you have these other symptoms, that is an emergency. I've only had two people over 20 some years that actually went in and they didn't need surgery.

Bob: I had one person and it was the same thing, he went in and it wasn't that. I've treated people after the fact, though, that had it and became paralyzed.

Brad: Yeah, so that is something obviously we'd want to get at immediately.

Bob: This one too, you know, could be an emergency if it comes on real suddenly, if you have weakness in your arm or leg. If it's a gradual thing, comes on slowly, then you can probably set an office visit. But, we're always worried about whether or not it's a stroke, or something like that, so you want to make sure.

Brad: Yeah, if you can't pick something up that you normally could, and you've got numbness and weakness. Yeah, you have to go in.

Bob: It's time to go in. These are definitely emergency medical care situations, and we'll go into these now. One, if you've had a traumatic injury, like a diving accident, or you're in a car crash. Don't mess around with it because you could have a fracture and not even realize it. You could have what is called a hangman's fracture and your neck is unstable and you could actually become paralyzed. So you really don't want to mess around with it. If you have a high fever, along with your neck pain, then we're worried about meningitis. And the membrane covering your spinal cord and brain can get an infection and you don't want to mess with that.

Brad: It builds up pressure.

Bob: You want to go in and have that treated, obviously. If you have a severe, persistent headache accompanied by nausea and weakness, it's time to go in right away.

Brad: Right. Particular if you're one that doesn't have headaches, or headaches like that.

Bob: Yes. Yeah, if you have migraines and you're used to it, I mean, that's a different story. Yeah, nausea or vomiting, that is probably beyond the neck pain. If you have a rash, if you have sensitivity to light, if you have a racing or irregular heartbeat, along with the neck pain. Difficulty breathing, like we said before pain or numbness radiating down the arm that just started suddenly, and pain in your chest, or jaw. Then we're obviously worried about a heart attack, so you want to make sure you check that out.

Brad: And I think if you had all of a sudden pain or numbness down both arms at the same time, then get in, because that's more unusual too. So get that figured out, it very well could be something that's not serious but definitely get that checked out.

Bob: You always want to be on the safe side here. Thanks everybody for watching.

Brad: Very glad, oh! What about our PDF, we'll skip it?

Bob: Oh, sure, well this program by the way is part of a series of videos on neck pain. If you want to check out the whole program, go to, look for the neck series. There's about 30 videos, you pick out the ones you want to watch. You don't have to watch each one. They're all free, we don't require an email, or anything of you, you can just check them out.

Brad: And they have a PDF printout, a little review of exercises and what we've talked about on the video. It's all free, there's no email or anything, it's just our gift to you and would hope that you improve and become healthy, fit and pain free.

Bob: Well, like this one now, on this video you can look at the list, see what symptoms you have and what you should be doing.

Brad: Sure, right, yep.

Bob: So you don't have to write them all down.

Brad: Yeah, that's a good deal.

Bob: All right, take care.

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