At-Home Treatments for Neck Pain

Most Healing Happens Outside the Doctor's Office

Question: I was recently diagnosed with a bulging disc at C5-C6. Is there anything I can do (that is, without seeing a doctor) to relieve my pain?
—Norwalk, CT

Answer: This is a great question because many people can relate to your pain. In fact, C5-C6 is the most common area of herniation in the neck. That segment is particularly susceptible to normal wear and tear usually caused by aging (though poor mechanics can also play a part).

You're also not alone in your desire to take care of yourself without having to go to the doctor. Many healthcare professionals will tell you that most of the healing process goes on outside of a doctor's office. There are many ways you can help reduce your pain at home, but understand that there is a point when your symptoms warrant professional medical attention. I'll address that later on in this article.

Let's start with the good news. Statistically, about half of bulging and herniated discs heal within six months after they occur—and only roughly 10% ever need surgery. So non-surgical treatments for your cervical bulging disc will likely be enough to reduce your pain—and thankfully, you can do many of these treatments yourself.

man with travel Neck Pillow and Sleeping mask sleeping in an armchairMany healthcare professionals will tell you that most of the healing process goes on outside of a doctor's office.

Under the supervision of your physician, these treatment methods can be utilized at home or with the assistance of a therapist:

  • Cervical pillow: A proper pillow will not only help improve your quality of sleep but also aid in giving your neck the support and position it needs to heal.
  • Herbal remedies: If you prefer to take a natural approach to medications, there are a wide variety of herbal supplements available to help your pain. You can apply capsaicin cream, for example, which temporarily reduces pain.
  • Ice and moist heat: Ice should be applied in a towel for 15-20 minutes, two to three times daily on the area of pain. Heat should be applied in later stages of treatment.
  • Over the door traction: This treatment has been shown to be very effective in helping relieve pain and muscle spasms. Normally a 5 or 10 pound weight is used. Special care should be taken when this therapy is being administered.
  • Range of motion exercise: These exercises allow your neck to undergo full range of motion. This helps prevent stiffness from developing and also helps to strengthen the important muscles in the neck.

If you're still in pain, visiting a physical therapist may be one of your best options. Passive physical therapy for neck pain includes ultrasound, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and even mild neck traction can be very effective. These treatments are non-invasive and can effectively help manage your pain. It is always important to remember that if your pain continues or starts to become progressively worse you should inform your supervising physician and seek medical attention.

If you're still not satisfied with your pain level, chiropractic spinal alignment may be right for you. Treating a neck condition without aligning the cervical segments of the neck is like putting a new tire on a car without fixing the alignment. I recommend an upper cervical chiropractic evaluation for any neck pain case with a bulging disc. Not only can this treatment give systematic relief, it could stop the progression of cervical spine degeneration in the future.

There is another way you can help reduce your neck pain—think positive. I understand it's hard to be optimistic when you're experiencing pain from a bulging disc, but it's important that you do. If your mental state is healthy, it has a positive impact on your physical one. And one of the best parts about this "treatment" is that you never have to step foot in a doctor's office to do it.