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Alternative Treatments for Neck Pain

Acupuncture, Herbal Remedies, Massage, and Yoga

Peer Reviewed

In developing your treatment plan for neck pain, your doctor may suggest alternative treatments such as acupuncture—or you may want to try these treatments yourself. Many patients have reported that these alternative ways of dealing with their neck pain have really helped.

However, a word of advice: Please talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatments. Some people think that these are 100% safe alternatives, but there may be interactions, for example, between an herb that you want to take and a medication that you're using. For that reason (and so that your doctor is fully aware of all treatments you're trying), keep him or her in the loop when you want to try alternative treatments.

You may want to try:

  • Acupuncture:  Acupuncture practitioners believe that your body has an energy force called your Qi or Chi (pronounced "chee"). They think that when your Chi is blocked, you can develop physical illness. Acupuncture works to restore a healthy, energetic flow of Chi. (This Eastern approach to healing is different from Western scientific concepts. That doesn't make it better or worse; it just makes it different.)

    In acupuncture, the practitioner inserts fine needles into your body at specific points—and it doesn't hurt, honestly. 

  • Herbal Remedies: Some herbal remedies that neck pain sufferers have found useful are:
    • Capsaicin Cream: Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers hot, and it can also relieve your neck pain. It just temporarily reduces your pain, though, so you'll need to keep re-applying. Capsaicin cream can help with osteoarthritis and muscle pain—both causes of neck pain.
    • Devil's Claw: Devil's claw comes from southern Africa, where it has been used for centuries to treat fever, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems. Today, it's used for conditions that cause inflammation and pain, like cervical osteoarthritis.
    • White Willow Bark: The white willow led to the development of aspirin in Europe. If you don't want to take the synthetic version (aspirin can irritate the stomach), use white willow bark. It's for conditions that cause pain or inflammation, such as osteoarthritis (spondylosis).
       
  • Massage: A lot of neck pain is caused by stress, overuse, and misuse—for example, sitting hunched over the computer for too long every day because you have to meet those deadlines. A massage will help release that tension and relieve muscle inflammation and pain.  Consider getting regular massages as a neck pain prevention measure.
     
  • Yoga and Pilates: By doing yoga or Pilates, you can increase your core strength, improve your balance and posture, and reduce stress. Those are all good things that will help you deal with (or even prevent) neck pain.

In-depth Articles on Other Neck Pain Treatments

You may find neck pain relief with these alternative treatments.  Especially the treatments that focus on relieving tension or stress (massage or yoga) can prove particularly helpful if your neck pain is related to tight muscles and/or the physical effects of stress.  As a reminder:  these treatments may need to be used in conjunction with other neck pain treatments in order to fully address your pain, the underlying spinal condition, and any other neck-related symptoms you may have.

Updated on: 02/22/13
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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