Practice Plus Group MSK and Diagnostics

Serious neck pain

Serious neck pain is very uncommon to experience what we call serious neck pain. Most cases of neck pain can be resolved through self-management and keeping active.

However, in a small minority of cases, the symptoms indicate potentially more serious issues, which should be referred to a medical professional without delay.

This section is designed to help you identify if you need a medical assessment.


What causes serious neck pain?

Your spine is a very robust and resilient structure, but it is also extremely complex.

Sometimes, the types of neck pain referred to elsewhere on this website can come with complications, whether they started with a significant trauma like a fall/impact or came on gradually.

If you have suffered a recent injury to the neck or spine, for example in a car accident, you are advised to check the symptoms listed here and seek medical advice if any of these develop.

If you have not experienced a specific injury or trauma but you have neck pain plus any of the symptoms listed here, you are also advised to seek medical advice.

Please do remember, however, that many other things can cause these symptoms and serious neck or spine problems are actually extremely rare.


What are the symptoms of serious neck pain?

If you have any of the following symptoms, call 111 or contact your GP for a same day appointment:

  • New feelings of unsteadiness/dizziness.
  • Problems with your ability to speak or find words.
  • Sudden collapse (without loss of consciousness).
  • Difficulty swallowing or an unexplained hoarse voice.
  • Double vision or loss of part of your visual field.
  • Loss of feeling or pins & needles in both of your arms or legs.
  • Difficulty walking and/or loss of coordination.
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting.
  • Altered sensations around your nose, tongue or mouth area.
  • Newly developed clumsiness/dropping things.
  • New severe headaches that do not ease and are different to normal.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you are advised to call 111 or contact your GP, but you do not necessarily require a same day appointment:

  • Neck pain that is growing worse, severe and different to your normal experience of pain.
  • Neck pain that stops you sleeping at night or gets worse when lying down.
  • Neck pain accompanied by sudden unexplained weight loss or a general feeling of being unwell.
  • Odd feelings in your legs, with a sense of unsteadiness or heaviness.
  • An altered sensation in both arms or legs/feet.
  • Fever or chills that came on around the same time as your neck pain.
  • Night sweats.
  • A change in the appearance or angle of your neck/spine.

Note: If you have been diagnosed with cancer, or have a history of cancer, and you have any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical advice immediately.


How is serious neck pain diagnosed?

Serious neck pain is not a condition in itself but may indicate other causes. Your doctor will assess your symptoms, carry out an examination and advise you on whether you need further investigations.


What are the treatment options for serious neck pain?

This depends on the cause. Your doctor will advise you.


What is the prognosis (outlook) for serious neck pain?

Again, this depends on the cause and your doctor will advise you.


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