Medications and Spinal Injections to Relieve Neck Pain

DoctorBased on the underlying spinal condition causing your neck pain, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan. The vast majority of people with neck pain don't need surgery. Generally, the cause is a muscle strain, so time is a good medicine. However, medications may help ease your neck pain, and your doctor will talk to you about your options.

Medications for Neck Pain

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your neck pain.

The severity of your pain determines the prescription, which could be:

  • Over-the-counter Medications: You have two main options here.  You can use an analgesic, which is a painkiller.  Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an analgesic.  If you'd like to use a medication that addresses the inflammation as well as the pain, you can use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).  These will help reduce swelling while relieving your pain. You can use, for example, ibuprofen (Advil).
  • Prescription Medications: If you have chronic neck pain caused by muscle spasms, you may need a muscle relaxant, which will help stop the spasms. As surprising as it may seem, anti-depressants can be effective drugs for treating pain because they block pain messages on their way to the brain. They can also help increase your body's production of endorphins, a natural pain killer.

As with all medications, you must follow your doctor's advice precisely. Never mix over-the-counter and prescribed drugs without consulting your doctor.

Spinal Injections:  Another Option for Neck Pain

The doctor may suggest you get a spinal injection, which is an injection of medication right to the root of the problem.

  • Cervical Epidural Injection: This injection targets the epidural space, which is the space surrounding the membrane that covers the spine and nerve roots. Nerves travel through the epidural space to the neck, shoulders, and arms. If a nerve root is inflamed in the epidural space, you can have neck, shoulder, or arm pain. A cervical epidural injection puts anti-inflammatory medicine into the epidural space to decrease the inflammation of the nerve roots. The epidural injection may provide total and permanent relief—or it may reduce your pain for several months.
  • Trigger Point Injection: These are used in more extreme cases. Trigger points are knots of muscle that develop when muscles do not relax. A trigger point injection targets that area with a painkiller. Injections aren't used in isolation; your doctor will most likely also suggest an exercise program (physical therapy) to work on muscle flexibility, strength, and proper movement.

In-depth Articles on Other Neck Pain Treatments

Medications: Part of an Overall Neck Pain Treatment Plan

Medications and/or spinal injections may be part of a more comprehensive treatment plan that includes physical therapy.  The medications may give you pain relief so that you feel more comfortable working on strenghtening the muscles that support the neck (if it's a muscle issue causing your pain—this is just an example).  Also (and this almost goes without saying), but medications are not in any way treating the source of your problem; they are simply providing you with pain relief.


Updated on: 03/08/16
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