Some of the common causes of pain can be from muscles, joints, nerves or the discs between the spinal bones. There are also contributing factors that can make it difficult to fully recover from neck pain such as poor posture or weak muscles.
There are a variety of treatment options when it comes to managing neck pain. The more recognized self-treatment strategies being ice, rest and medications. At the other end of that spectrum is pain management and even surgery. The most popular non-invasive options are massage, stretching, strengthening, spinal manipulation and even acupuncture. In the majority of cases it is best to try these non-invasive therapies before resorting to surgery or other invasive measures.
For a first time occurrence of neck pain, it is often recommended to try ice, resting and medications during the first 24-48 hours. This is certainly the case if there is a known injury and you can recall exactly what caused the neck pain. Depending on the severity of the injury, it is often beneficial to try hands on therapies as soon as the acute inflammation starts to subside. This can range anywhere from 1 day up to about a week.
In some instances, a person may simply wake up with a stiff neck and it is painful to move in any direction. They will refer to this as a kink in their neck, or a crick in their neck. This is usually the result of a deep muscle spasm and joint restrictions. In this situation, it could be beneficial to use heat, stretching, massage and spinal manipulation right away. There are of course other rare but dangerous conditions such as meningitis that must be ruled out first. A qualified spine specialist should be able to help rule out any potential serious condition and apply the correct therapy right away.
For neck pain that is more long standing or comes and goes frequently, additional therapies are often necessary. It is still beneficial to utilize stretching, myofascial release and spinal manipulation. However, strengthening and posture exercises may become more beneficial. This is especially true if the pain is related to weak muscles, bad posture, or incorrect body mechanics. Functional rehabilitation is a great option as it takes an individualized approach. It addresses specific imbalances and assigns the most appropriate stretches and exercises.
When dealing with degenerative conditions such as arthritis, a trial of care consisting of only 1-2 therapies at a time is recommended. It is a good idea to start slow and be gentle in order to avoid over treating. Some people can become very sore or the condition can become exacerbated with some therapies. The idea of limiting therapies in the beginning allows time to see which therapies might be most beneficial. Acupuncture, myofascial release and gentle stretches are usually the treatments of choice for many types of arthritis.
As with treating any spinal condition, it is important to understand that self-management is the ultimate goal. Each of the above therapies is a great way to relieve pain and realign the spine. However, taking control and doing the corrective stretches/exercises regularly is almost always the best approach.