Neck or shoulder pain are very common because there are so many ways to strain or injure this sensitive area of the body.  There are many issues which can raise the risk of neck pain including poor posture, bad diet or stress, but there are also many ways to mitigate these risks.  If you do encounter neck or shoulder pain, you may find some of the following neck pain treatments helpful.

Before you initiate one of these neck pain treatments, you should first consult with your physician. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose your health condition and ensure that a neck pain treatment won’t worsen your neck pain issue.  Furthermore, many of these neck pain treatments are only available through a medical services provider.

Home Remedies

Because neck or shoulder issues have plagued people for so long, many neck pain treatments have been developed that do not require involved medical intervention.

If home remedies aren’t potent enough to relieve your neck and shoulder pain, then you should consult with your physician. Only about one percent of neck pain cases involve a serious health condition like cancer or spinal cord damage, but warning signs include persistent pain that continues for six weeks or longer, worsening pain or fever.

Medical Neck Pain Treatments

  • Stretching—many people suffer from neck pain because of stress which may cause clenched muscles. To help relieve pain and stiffness, you may want to engage in a regular habit of stretches. These may include
    • Rolling shoulders forward and backward
    • Squeeze your shoulder blades towards your spine then release
    • Gently tilt your ear towards your shoulder, then alternate on the other side
    • Slowly pivot your head from side to side
  • Heat/ice—many people find immediate pain relief from the application of heat or ice.  Taking a warm shower or applying a heating pad is usually enough to loosen tight muscles and promote circulation. Applying an ice pack for 20-minute periods throughout the day can help relieve inflammation.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers—neck and shoulder pain is most easily addressed by taking pain relief medications, and the most readily available are OTC drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). There is no prescription required for these medications, but that doesn’t mean they are completely risk free.  Check with your doctor to see if you are healthy enough for OTC drugs.
  • Massage—don’t overlook the benefits of an intense massage. Manual manipulation of neck and shoulder muscles by an experienced professional can help relax tense muscles and promote production of natural painkillers called endorphins.

When you see your physician for neck pain treatments, you may be asked to participate in one or more of the following therapies:

Preventing Neck Pain

  • Traction—this treatment uses weights or air bladders to gently stretch the neck.  This is most commonly used when there is some kind of nerve root irritation and provides pain relief by reducing pressure on the impinged nerve. It may also be applied if the muscles in the neck are compressed. This therapy is primarily used to provide short-term relief.
  • Physical therapy—in many circumstances, working with a physical therapist to improve posture and strengthen neck muscles is sufficient to alleviate neck pain.  These sessions may also include work with ultrasound or TENS devices.
  • Neck immobilization—a soft neck brace may be recommended for patients suffering from traumatic neck injuries. The role of neck braces is to minimize the risk of further injury to the cervical spinal cord.  Luckily, very few people are at risk of spinal cord injury except those in extreme collisions that place enormous torque on the neck. That is why it is much more uncommon for a physician to recommend a neck brace, and almost always for periods less than two weeks.
  • Steroid injections—a physician may inject steroids into the site of neck pain if there is inflammation that is contributing to the pain symptoms.  In some cases, a steroid injection may also include a numbing agent like lidocaine. The injection may be placed in neck muscles or near a problematic nerve root.
  • Surgery—if all other treatment options have failed, then surgery may be the final solution, depending on the neck pain cause.  Surgery is usually only an option if there is a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis or degenerative disk disease. Surgical procedures include
    • Discectomy—a surgeon will remove a herniated disc and bone spurs that are compressing on a neck nerve.  Any space may be filled with bone or the vertebrae may be fused.
    • Laminectomy—in this procedure, the laminae—bony plates in the spinal canal are removed, allowing more room for nerves.
    • Laminoplasty—for patients with spinal stenosis, a laminoplasty procedure relieves pressure on the spinal cord by re-sculpting the laminae.
    • Cervical spinal fusion—if there is abrasion between two vertebrae due to a herniated or deformed spinal disc, a surgeon may use a bone graft or metal brace to fuse the two bones together.

It is important to prevent strain or injury to your neck by minimizing risks. You may be able to avoid many kinds of neck and shoulder pain by implementing the following strategies.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

  • Reduce stress—limiting stress can diminish tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.  Meditation, yoga or biofeedback may help you limit stress in your life.
  • Exercise—stronger muscles in your neck and shoulders can help stabilize your head, preventing painful contortions. Added strength will also improve your posture.
  • Sleep well—the right sleeping environment may greatly aid your health. The right pillows, mattresses and sleep position can promote neck health and alleviate pain.
  • Ergonomic work station—neck pain is often the result of a poorly designed work environment.  For many people who work at a desk, neck pain is caused by ill-fitting chairs or office equipment.  Position your computer at eye level and maintain good posture.
  • Limit driving—if you are behind the wheel a lot, learn to take breaks to ease neck strain.

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information. 

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