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How do I Treat a Neck Injury?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 16, 2024
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Loud neighbors or obnoxious acquaintances might be considered a metaphorical pain in the neck, but these and similar irritants pale in comparison to the real thing. Neck injuries come in many forms and stem from many causes. A neck injury might be acute or chronic. It might be a result of trauma, muscle strain, pinched nerves, degeneration, herniated discs, or something as simple as sleeping on your stomach. Luckily, most neck injuries are relatively minor and can be treated with exercises, medications, and sometimes a change of habit.

It is initially up to the individual to decide if a neck injury requires a trip to the physician’s office. Medical help should always be sought in case of trauma to the neck, but there are a few other signs that indicate something more serious than a pulled muscle is potentially at play. If you feel shooting pains that run from the neck to the arm, you might be experiencing heart problems. Any kind of numbness in the hands or arms that accompanies neck pain should be viewed as a warning sign, and the same is true if you are unable to touch your chest with your chin. These signals may be nothing, but they could also be indicative of anything ranging from undiagnosed diseases to an impending stroke.

Assuming that a neck injury is not the result of an accident or other trauma, there are a number of treatments a person can attempt at home. Over-the-counter pain medications, especially anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, are often very helpful. As is true with most any strain or pull, alternating heat pads and ice packs in 20-minute intervals often relieves the injury. Rest is almost always recommended, as a neck injury will heal slowly if excessive movement exacerbates the afflicted area.

For some people, a back massage is a preferred treatment, as strained muscles in the back might be the true source of the neck pain. In this same vein, millions utilize alternative treatments such as chiropractic and acupuncture. In all of these examples, numerous sessions are generally required before the injury is alleviated or cured. If a neck injury does not seem to disappear with a reasonable amount of time, you should see a medical doctor for x-rays and tests.

If there is no structural harm to the neck or upper vertebra, physical therapy exercises, usually quite gentle, are often the prescription for a neck injury. The goal is to re-establish a range of motion. In more severe cases, surgery might be recommended, and will more than likely be followed by physical therapy when the bones and tendons have healed. It is good to keep in mind that the best way to treat a neck injury is to avoid getting one in the first place.

Never hunch over a computer or drive for long periods without a break. A person should also make sure to stretch several times during the day. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided if at all possible. While a neck injury is normally nothing to worry about, it should be monitored closely if pain increases or additional problems develop.

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