The most common types of mild to moderate neck pain usually respond well to self-care within two or three weeks. If neck pain persists, your doctor might recommend other treatments.
Self-care measures you can try to relieve neck pain include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers. Try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
- Alternate heat and cold. Reduce inflammation by applying cold, such as an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel, for up to 20 minutes several times a day. Or alternate the cold treatment with heat. Try taking a warm shower or using a heating pad on the low setting.
- Home exercises. Begin daily gentle stretching, including neck rolls and shoulder rolls, once the worst of your pain has subsided. Gently tilt, bend and rotate your neck. Warm your neck and back with a heating pad or in the shower or bath before doing these exercises. Your doctor or a physical therapist can instruct you in doing these exercises.
If self-care doesn’t resolve neck pain, your doctor might recommend:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you correct posture, alignment and neck-strengthening exercises, and can use heat, ice, electrical stimulation and other measures to help ease your pain and prevent a recurrence.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).Electrodes placed on your skin near the painful areas deliver tiny electrical impulses that may relieve pain.
- Traction. Traction uses weights, pulleys or an air bladder to gently stretch your neck. This therapy, under supervision of a medical professional and physical therapist, may provide relief of some neck pain, especially pain related to nerve root irritation.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures in your neck. However, if used for more than three hours at a time or for more than one to two weeks, a collar might do more harm than good.