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Neck Pain Treatments

Overview of Neck Pain Relief Options

Peer Reviewed

If you have developed neck pain, you have several treatment options. First and foremost, please know that most cases of neck pain do not lead to surgery.  There are several non-surgical treatments to try before that, and this article will review them before discussing neck surgery options.

Non-surgical Neck Pain Treatments

Most cases of neck pain originate from strain and can be treated non-surgically. Most often, this involves relieving neck pressure and muscle spasm.

Cervical collars limit movement and support the head taking the load off the neck. Lying down has a similar affect. Limiting neck movement and reducing pressure (weight) gives muscles needed rest while healing from the strain.

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Cervical traction may be prescribed for home use. This form of traction gently pulls the head, stretching neck muscles while increasing the size of the neural passageways (foramen).

Medications may be used to treat neck pain. Depending on the cause of the neck pain, the following may be prescribed:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • muscle relaxants
  • short-term use of opioids

In some cases of neck pain, trigger point injections are beneficial.

Often physical therapy (PT) is incorporated into the treatment plan. Passive forms of PT such as heat/cold, ultrasound, and massage may help alleviate pain and stiffness. Therapeutic exercise can help build strength and increase range of motion. Therapists also educate the patient about their condition and teach posture correction and relaxation techniques.

In-depth Articles on Neck Pain Non-surgical Treatments

To learn more about any of the above non-surgical treatments, follow the links to detailed articles on each treatment (and a few more you may be interested in):

Cervical Spine Surgery:  Will You Need It?

Seldom does neck pain require surgical intervention. Indications for surgery include, but are not limited to:

  • spinal cord dysfunction
  • excruciating pain unrelieved by conservative (non-surgical) measures
  • prolonged pain and/or weakness

For example, a vertebral fracture or herniated disc may cause spinal cord compression resulting in serious neurologic deficit (neurologic problems).

Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the foramen or neural passageways, may entrap nerve roots and then may cause unrelenting pain.

The type of surgical procedure is dependent on the patient's needs. The surgeon considers the patient's medical history, age, general physical condition, occupation, and other factors. Cervical spinal surgery is delicate and requires a skilled surgeon.

Your surgeon will thoroughly explain your surgery options, but to help you research, read our article on cervical spine surgery.  It includes full information on various cervical spine surgery procedures.

Updated on: 04/04/13
Stewart G. Eidelson, MD
This article gives a well-rounded picture about things that can cause neck and arm pain. However, a patient should consult with their own physician rather than doing a self-diagnosis. Some conditions, such as coronary artery disease (angina) or even lung tumors may mimic these conditions. It is best to have a skilled physician perform a thorough physical examination when the symptoms described are present.
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