The most common types of neck pain usually respond well to home care. If neck pain persists, your doctor may recommend other treatments.
Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medicine than what you can get over-the-counter. Muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressant medications used for pain also may be prescribed.
- Neck exercises and stretching. Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physical therapist to learn neck exercises and stretches. A physical therapist can guide you through these exercises and stretches so that you can do them on your own at home. Exercises may improve pain by restoring muscle function, optimizing posture to prevent overload of muscle, and increasing the strength and endurance of your neck muscles.
- Traction. Traction uses weights and pulleys to gently stretch your neck and keep it immobilized. This therapy, under supervision of a medical professional and physical therapist, may provide relatively fast relief of some neck pain, especially pain related to nerve root irritation.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures in your neck. If used for more than two weeks, however, a collar may do more harm than good.
Surgical and other procedures
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- Steroid injections. Your doctor may inject corticosteroid medications near the nerve roots, into the small facet joints in the bones of the cervical spine or into the muscles in your neck to help with pain. Numbing medications, such as lidocaine, also can be injected to relieve your neck pain.
- Surgery. Surgery is rarely needed for neck pain. However, it may be an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.
- Firestein GS, et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1807/0.html. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- Isaac Z, et al. Evaluation of the patient with neck pain and cervical spine disorders. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- Anderson BC, et al. Treatment of neck pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1678/0.html. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-2/0/1494/0.html. Accessed July 6, 2012.
- What a pain in the neck! American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. http://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/msk/spine/Pages/Prevent-Neck-Pain.aspx. Accessed July 6, 2012.