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Neck pain is a common affliction that can be caused by posture, stress, or pressure on the nerves. There are several methods for relieving neck pain, and different strategies work for different people. Pain medications can bring some relief, as can physical therapy. Self-care such as applying heat or cold works for mild neck pain, and for some people, alternative medical therapies are effective.
The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain, typically from bad posture. Hunching over a computer or steering wheel for hours at a time can strain the muscles in the neck and lead to neck pain. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the bones of the neck, and it can be another cause of neck pain. Abnormalities in the bones of the spinal cord can put pressure on the nerves of the neck, leading to neck pain. Injuries, especially whiplash, can strain the neck’s muscles and soft tissues and cause recurrent pain.
Pain medications are one strategy often recommended for relieving neck pain. For minor neck pain, over-the-counter medications may offer some relief. If the neck pain is more severe and persistent, a physician may prescribe a stronger medication or inject a medication directly into the affected area.
Physical therapy can be effective in relieving chronic neck pain. In this type of physical therapy, a person will do exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the neck. Gentle stretching throughout the day can also improve neck pain.
For severe neck pain due to an injury, immobilizing the neck for a short period of time may be the best way of relieving neck pain. A soft collar can support the neck muscles and keep them from strain while they heal. This technique should only be used for a short time, however, or it can do more harm than good.
In addition to medical treatments, there are a few self-care treatments for relieving neck pain. Using hot or cold compresses on the affected area can relieve pain. Lying down for a few minutes at different times during the day to relax the neck muscles can also be effective. If the neck pain is due to sitting in a hunched over posture, standing up and stretching every hour or two can help prevent stiffness and pain.