Neck pain is a common symptom. Very often it is accompanied by other symptoms such as neck stiffness, pain in the shoulders, headache, etc. These other accompanying symptoms of neck pain often help to diagnose the cause of the pain. This helps your doctor to frame the guidelines for your neck pain treatment.
Neck pain treatment at home involves the use of simple-to-follow remedies. There are several reasons why you could develop pain in the neck.
Options for treating cervical neck pain and stiffness depend on the cause. Serious cases require aggressive medical treatment. Otherwise, most cases can be treated at home to get relief from the pain.
Physiotherapy is an important part of therapy. Advice from a physiotherapist is required on the type of neck exercises and the massage technique, especially in case of pain due to a strained cervical muscle.
This is the most common cause of neck pain caused by the constant use of desktop computers wrongly angled or staring down at our mobile phone with the neck flexed for long periods.
In such cases, using a cervical pillow to relax the neck muscles during sleep work well. Adopting sleeping positions that give maximum comfort will also help relax the neck muscles and give relief.
Treatment of neck pain
The most common causes of neck pain can be treated at home. Some may require advice from your orthopedic specialist who may prescribe conservative treatment. Some may require advice from a physician or surgeon depending on the vast array of causes that give you neck pain.
Chronic neck pain can be caused by overuse of a particular neck muscle, an injury, aging, or damage to the neck bones, to the joints between the neck vertebrae, or to the intervertebral disc.
Conservative treatment at home
Here are the guidelines to treat neck pain at home arising out of a stiff pulled neck muscle or cervical spondylosis. Some cases of chronic neck pain can be treated at home conservatively while some may require surgery.
No physical activity
Stop your daily physical activity. You should stop all exercises and games for the first two to three days or until there is some relief from pain.
You must avoid driving and cycling. This helps to reduce inflammation and soothe the strained muscle. After two or three days, you can begin your gentle physical activities.
Hot and cold compresses
Hot and cold fermentation is the first step of treatment that helps to relax the inflamed and strained neck muscles and reduce their stiffness.
Apply ice to the painful part three to four times a day for the first three days. Thereafter, apply heat. Care should be taken in both cases to see that you do not burn your skin.
Neck pain due to arthritis or muscle spasm does cause inflammation at the site of the pathology. You could take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and get relief from the pain.
This is not the cure, but it will give relief from the pain symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medicines for severe cases due to severe muscle spasms.
You can also apply anti-inflammatory cream on the site of the pain to get relief
Have someone gently massage the neck. Knowing the right way to massage is important. It has to start in a gentle way in order to loosen up the tense muscles and ease the neck stiffness.
Starting with intense massaging will tense the muscles further. A longer massage gives better relief than a short one. You can have a neck massage thrice a week. Do consult a physiotherapist to know the right technique of massage.
Neck exercises for pain and stiffness
Neck exercises and stretches help in the mobilization of the neck muscles, which have been rested. Do the exercises slowly and without any sudden movements.
Gently move your neck side to side and up and down, each about ten times, several times a day. This will help to stretch the strained muscles.
This forms part of the physiotherapy treatment. Advice from the physiotherapist will help you to perform the right exercises in the right manner. Do these four stretches for a stiff neck.
Your doctor may prescribe a cervical collar to support your neck and keep it in a neutral position. This will relax the tensed-up cervical muscles.
Wear the collar only for two or three days. Using the collar for a long time will weaken the neck muscles.
Your doctor may advise cervical traction. This is the application of weights to stretch the neck. It is done to increase the reduced space between two cervical vertebrae, which happens in cervical spondylosis. In cases of a pinched nerve, this treatment becomes useful.
Cervical pillow and sleeping positions
Another important step in the treatment is to allow your neck to be comfortable while sleeping. Try to sleep on a firm mattress.
If your neck feels more comfortable without a pillow, there is no need to use it. If you feel you need a pillow, use one that changes its shape as you move your head.
Choose a sleeping position that suits and makes you most comfortable. Sleeping positions will vary with different people depending on the site of neck pain.
Special neck pain relieving cervical pillows are available, which provide support on the sides and a shallow cavity in the center to rest your head. This will be the best pillow to use. The shape of the pillow allows for maximum relief to the neck while sleeping.
If the pain is not relieved within one week, visit your orthopedic doctor who will do the necessary tests to diagnose the cause of neck pain.
Proper posture at all times
When working at the desk or on a computer, while reading or writing, your posture should be such that the neck must be in line with the rest of the spine. The vertebral column of the neck and back should be in a straight line.
Keep prescription up to date if you wear glasses
Proper glasses will enable you to read properly. The inability to read makes you bend forward towards the monitor screen and stoop, which strains the neck muscles.
Surgical treatment for neck pain
The two most common surgical options for neck pain aim to remove a damaged disc and restore normal spacing between two vertebrae. This helps to decompress a compressed nerve root and/or the spinal cord.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
ACDF is the most common surgery for neck pain. It involves a discectomy, which is the removal of a damaged disc in the cervical spine. This relieves pressure on the nerve roots and alleviates the symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling.
Cervical artificial disc replacement (ADR)
ADR, a newer option, is discectomy with artificial disc replacement. This surgery removes the damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. The potential benefit of cervical ADR is that it restores more neck mobility.