Neck Pain Treatments

Pain treatment usually includes a combination of medications, physical therapy, and alternative treatments (acupuncture).

Neck pain is a symptom of many conditions, so treating neck pain depends on what condition you have. For the best results, you may need a comprehensive treatment plan—one that includes a combination of medications, physical therapy, and acupuncture, for example.

Both the severity and cause of your neck pain will help your doctor determine which treatments are right for you.

Medications for Neck Pain
Before taking any new medications, let your doctor know about other medications you're taking and follow your doctor's specific directions. You should never mix prescription medications and over-the-counter medications without consulting your doctor.

Over-the-counter medications: There are two main options for over-the counter-medications. You can use an analgesic, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is a painkiller. To avoid rare but serious side effects of kidney and/or liver damage, follow dosing instructions and avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Or you can use a medication thatrelieves your pain and reduces swelling—a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), for example. To avoid unwelcome side effects on your heart, stomach, intestines, and kidneys, take these medications exactly as directed.

Prescription medications: Muscle relaxants are one example of a prescription medication that can help with chronic neck pain caused by muscle spasms: They work to stop the spasms. Also, antidepressants can treat neck pain effectively by blocking pain messages to the brain.

Spinal Injections for Neck Pain
As with medications, spinal injections can provide neck pain relief.

  • Cervical epidural injections: A cervical epidural injection puts anti-inflammatory medicine into the space that surrounds the membrane covering your spine and nerve roots. This injection helps decrease inflammation of the nerve roots and may reduce your pain for several months.
  • Trigger point injections: These injections are used in more severe cases. They target trigger points—knots of muscle that develop when muscles don't relax—with a painkiller.

Other Treatments for Neck Pain
In addition to medications and spinal injections for neck pain, there are a variety of other treatments that can address your pain.

  • Chiropractic care can help treat your neck pain and prevent it from getting worse.
  • Physical therapy uses multiple techniques to relieve neck pain, including deep tissue massage and various stretches to build strength, stability, and flexibility.
  • Exercise, such as gentle yoga, can also provide neck pain relief by keeping your neck healthy and strong.
  • Alternative treatments—acupuncture and massage are just two examples—can also relieve muscle inflammation and pain.

Surgery for neck pain is rarely needed, but your doctor may recommend it if your pain is caused by a medical problem, such as a narrowing of the spinal canal, pressure on the spinal nerve roots, or a tumor. 

Updated on: 11/19/15
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