If you have neck pain (and you probably do!) you know how bothersome it can be. Neck injuries can results from sports injuries, car accidents, whiplash, falling, neck arthritis from aging, and sometimes from no apparent reason at all! Neck injuries can stop you from working, exercising, or participating in the activities that you love. Millions of Americans suffer from this issue every day, but what are the best treatments to fix neck pain? In fact, there are many things to do to effectively treat cervical pain.
- Rest – Not overdoing it is important, especially when it comes to acute neck pain, so rest up as needed!
- Heat & Ice – Is it better to use heat or ice for neck pain? That’s a great question, and the answer is both! In the early stages of an injured neck, you should use ice for the first day or two to decrease the inflammatory cascade. Once it has been more than 48 hours since your injury, you should switch to heat, which will increase blood flow to flush out any built up inflammatory toxins and optimize healing.
- Anti-inflammatory Medications – Over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and Aleve, and prescription level anti-inflammatories like Naprosyn, Mobic / meloxicam, Celebrex, and Voltaren / diclofenac all work by decreasing acute inflammation. They don’t heal your injury, but they can help slow down the inflammation potentially speed up your recovery. Anti-inflammatories may be particularly useful in the first 48 hours of acute neck pain.
- Muscle Relaxers – These medications include baclofen and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) among others and they work at the spinal cord level to ease some of the muscle tension in your neck. Their benefit is somewhat limited and controversial.
- Stretching – If the source of your lower neck pain is muscle spasms, there is some benefit from stretch therapy of those spastic muscle groups. It’s best to do those stretches first under the guidance of a licensed professional until you feel comfortable doing the home physical therapy exercises for neck pain on your own.
- Physical Therapy – There is no doubt that physical therapy can help you to improve your posture, fitness, and awareness of your body, and even increase your spinal awareness. Our practice regularly refers our clients to the top physical therapists in Los Angeles to treat neck pain.
- Chiropractic Therapy – It’s not just about the cracks (high-velocity low-amplitude) spinal manipulation. Chiropractic therapy also incorporates soft tissue mobilization, and the adjustments are typically focused on the treatment of the cervical facet joints and capsules, which are common causes of neck pain. Our practice regularly refers our clients to the top chiropractors in Los Angeles to treat neck pain.
- Acupuncture – There is data showing that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain for up to 6 months, although the therapy seems to become less effective after that. There are even studies showing changes to the proteins in the spinal space with acupuncture therapy! Our practice regularly refers our clients to the top acupuncturists in Los Angeles to treat neck pain.
- MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging can help doctors see inside your neck to identify the cause of your neck pain. If your neck pain is not resolving with the above therapies after a couple of weeks, or if you have neck pain radiating into your arm, shoulder, or upper back, then you should consider having an MRI. There is definitely some value to being able to image the cervical discs, facet capsules, and other “softer” structures that X-rays or a CT scan will not show!
- See a Top Rated Neck and Spine Specialist – An evaluation by a spinal specialist, such as by an interventional pain physician, orthopedic neck and back doctor, neurosurgeon spine specialist, or other spine and orthopedic physician for an accurate diagnosis and workup and other treatment options. Treatments require special training and skill, so be sure to go to the best spine doctor you can find.
Dr. Enayati, a board-certified interventional pain physician, is consistently rated as a top spine doctor and renowned interventional orthopedic spine specialist in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. His expertise includes a re-read and second opinion regarding your MRI, and procedures and other treatment options that are tailored to you!