Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

Do you have neck pain? If you do, you are far from alone. This is a very common ailment. In fact, in America more than 2/3 of adults report that they have experienced at least one incident of neck pain in their lives. It’s so easy to strain the neck. You can do it at work, during exercise, even turning over while sleeping.

It’s so common we even use the experience as a way to characterize someone or something frustrating – your boss or your kids are sometimes “a pain in the neck,” but so is neck pain! It’s miserable, and very common, but also quite treatable.

What to do when you have neck pain? There are a number of options. At home remedies work for some people, but if you need more help you can have physical therapy, alternative treatments, really all kinds of treatments are out there.

There are over the counter and prescription medications to help with both pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is great for pain relief, and if you need something for both pain and inflammation then non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are a great option. If you have a displaced cervical disk, though, you likely may need surgery.

It’s up to you how to treat your neck pain but it requires careful consideration of factors like intensity and duration of pain.

In the case of acute neck pain, or pain that comes on suddenly from accident or injury, doctors recommend resting in bed, using cold therapy (ice pack), and immobilizing the neck via neck brace or collar. This is essentially the opposite of treatment for chronic neck pain, which is typically physical therapy and heat therapy.

If you have physical therapy, it will not only address the pain via methods like massage, stretching, exercise, or electrical stimulation, it will also address causes. Your therapist will go over risk factors and preventative care with you.

Don’t assume that alternative therapies are not useful. In fact, a recent European study compared three groups. The group that had Chinese acupuncture ended up with better short- and long-term pain relief than did those who had massage treatment or laser treatment.

The key consideration is to find a trustworthy professional regardless of the type of treatment you choose. Massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy are all valid choices, but if done incorrectly can cause more harm than good. Try new therapies out, combine therapies even, and go with what suits your needs best.