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The type of treatment you need will depend on whether your neck pain is caused by activities, an injury, or another medical condition. Most neck pain caused by activities can be treated at home.
For neck pain that occurs suddenly:
Use a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Try a warm shower in place of one session with the heating pad. You can also buy single-use heat wraps that last up to 8 hours. Or you can try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. There is not strong evidence that either heat or ice will help. But you can try them to see if they help.
Avoid more injury to your neck by changing activities and habits, such as how you sit or sleep.
You can try wearing a cervical collar to support your neck. These collars may reduce neck pain, but they should only be used for a day or two.
Try exercises or manual therapy to help you move your head and neck more easily. See a physical therapist, chiropractor, or osteopathic doctor for this type of care. They can also help you learn stretching and strengthening exercises that you can do at home.
You might also try massage or yoga to relieve neck stress.
You can try acupuncture. It's sometimes used to relieve pain.
Ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medicine can also help relieve pain.
Traction may also be used to treat neck pain. It's a technique used to stretch the neck and relax the spinal nerve root openings. It may be used if there is no risk of instability in the neck. There is not strong evidence that traction helps.
To treat chronic neck pain, your doctor may prescribe medicine to relax your neck muscles. Or you may get medicines to relieve pain and help you sleep.
People who have chronic pain syndrome and the problems linked with it, such as depression or substance use disorder, may respond to treatment more slowly. Counseling along with medical treatment may help in recovery.
Surgery is rarely done to treat neck pain. But it may be done if your pain is caused by a medical problem, such as pressure on the spinal nerve roots, a tumor, or narrowing of the spinal canal.
The Stanford Medicine Online Second Opinion program offers you easy access to our world-class doctors. It’s all done remotely and you don’t have to visit our hospital or one of our clinics for this service. You don’t even need to leave home!