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Neck Problems and Injuries

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Home Treatment

Home treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness related to a neck problem.

  • Apply ice and cold packs to the injured area.
    • Apply ice or cold packs for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day or up to once an hour for the first 24 to 48 hours. Cold decreases swelling and pain. Keep a towel between your skin and the ice to prevent frostbite. Do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
    • Try ice massage. Massage the painful area with ice for 2 to 7 minutes, long enough to numb the pain. Ice frozen in a foam cup works well. Be careful not to damage your skin (frostbite).
  • Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes pain.
  • After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat. Use a warm pack or heating pad set on low. Some experts recommend switching back and forth between heat and cold treatments. You also can begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility.
  • Continue with your usual daily activities unless you have severe neck and back pain. Modify or avoid any activity that makes your pain worse.
  • Practice good posture. Avoid slouching or a head-forward posture.
  • When sleeping, place a small support pillow under your neck, not under your head.
  • When the pain begins to get better, start doing neck exercises. Do each exercise twice a day, 5 times each, and gradually increase to 10 times each. Do not do any exercises that cause pain.
  • If tension is contributing to your neck pain, massage may be helpful.

Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Other home treatment may help for problems that are related to neck pain, such as:

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • New or increased weakness or numbness in your arms develops.
  • Pain becomes severe or lasts longer than 2 weeks.
  • Symptoms do not improve.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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