When we say something is a “pain in the neck,” we mean it’s a nuisance or challenging to deal with. Nothing could be more accurate to describe actual neck pain! Not only does neck pain make everything from talking on the phone to driving a challenge, but it can also cause disrupted sleep and more serious long-term complications. The Pain Experts of Arizona can help when you’re ready to get back to pain-free living. Learn more about neck pain below or contact our team to set up your consultation.
In general, the best approach to treating neck pain is to start with conservative, non-invasive options, increasing the interventions only if needed. Ready to get started? Here are eight neck pain treatments that can help—either done separately or in combination with other therapies.
Self-care options include rest for a sore neck after injury, ice or heat therapy, and massage.
In cases of minor muscle strain or injury, this might be all you need to feel better.
2. Over-the-counter medications
Many people treat their neck pain with a combination of self-care and over-the-counter medications.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with both pain and inflammation. Look for ibuprofen and naproxen sodium at the pharmacy and take only as directed by your doctor.
3. Prescribed medications
You may need prescription medications if your pain is not decreasing, your sleep is affected, and your mobility is impaired.
Muscle relaxants, prescription pain medication, and numbing medications may help. Again, take only as directed by your doctor.
4. Physical therapy
Physical therapy works in conjunction with pain-relieving medications to help restore strength and range of motion in the neck, upper back, and shoulders.
Occupational therapy is another approach. This treatment helps to resolve postural or ergonomic issues that are leading to pain.
When all conservative options have been exhausted, your doctor may recommend surgery.
There are a variety of surgical approaches to neck pain. Which is recommended for you depends on your neck pain and any underlying conditions you might have.
Neck pain symptoms may be constant, or they may come and go. You might experience a slow-growing pain, or your pain may come on suddenly. Your neck pain symptoms will also change depending on activity levels.
The most common related symptoms include:
Clicking or grating noise
Difficulty moving your head
Diagnosing neck pain means starting with a complete medical history to help pinpoint any underlying conditions or causes of your pain. Your doctor will conduct a complete physical examination, working your neck gently through its range of motion and looking for tenderness, stiffness, or spasm.
If the cause of your neck pain is not obvious (i.e., a car accident that led to whiplash), they may order additional testing to rule out serious causes of neck pain. These diagnostic tests may include:
Nerve conduction studies (NCS)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs)
Selective nerve root blocks
When all of this information is taken together, it can help your doctor generate an accurate diagnosis of your pain. This is crucial for successful neck pain relief.
Many people wake up with minor neck pain in the morning that goes away as they move about their day. This is common and may be a result of an awkward sleeping position or uncomfortable pillow.
At The Pain Experts of Arizona, we treat patients with more serious types of neck pain. Some of our patients have neck pain that is related to chronic headaches. Others experience referred pain in the neck that comes from an injury to another area of the body, like the shoulders.
Neck pain can also originate in the spine. This occurs when the nerves of the spine are compressed by injury to the vertebrae. Patients may also experience pain in the joints of the spine (including the facet joints).
The experience of neck pain may be different for each of these types, too. Neck pain can be rooted deep in the muscles and occur as a spasm, or it might be a lingering soreness from torn connective tissue due to an injury.
Just as there are many different types of neck pain, there are a variety of neck pain causes. The most common cause of neck pain is strain, repetitive damage, or injury. Neck pain can occur as a result of a car accident or other impact injury, or it may occur due to poor posture over a long period of time.
Another major cause of neck injury is osteoarthritis. This “wear and tear” form of arthritis develops as we get older. The discs between your cervical vertebrae thin over time and with use, allowing painful bone-on-bone contact that makes even the slightest move painful.
Increasingly, doctors are seeing neck pain that can be attributed to excessive amounts of time spent staring at phones and screens. The head-forward posture places tremendous strain on the delicate cervical spine and can lead to permanent injury if not treated.
Each of these causes can be further complicated by any underlying health conditions.
Neck pain is a major health issue, costing the U.S. an estimated $29 billion annually in direct medical care costs alone. Women report more neck pain than men.
While 10% to 20% of the population has neck pain issues at any given time, approximately 70 to 75% of people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. This percentage is second only to lower back pain.