Millions of Americans suffer from chronic and acute neck pain. While some patients require surgical methods to treat their neck pain, many are able to treat the pain with nonsurgical methods like self-care and physical therapy. If you’re suffering from neck pain, here is some information about common nonsurgical neck pain treatment.

What Is Neck Pain Caused?

In most cases, neck pain is a sign of an underlying injury. If a physician has diagnosed you with neck pain, your symptoms may be caused by arthritis of the spine, muscle strains, a bulging disc, muscle spasms, or narrowed openings for the spinal cord or spinal nerves. Neck pain typically disappears once the underlying issue is resolved. However, for some, the neck pain fails to go away and the issue becomes chronic. For these patients, the goal is to manage their chronic pain so that they can continue to live a full and happy life.

Image result for Basics of Nonsurgical Neck Pain Treatment

Pain Relief

Many patients suffering from neck injuries receive treatment intended to relieve the pain. Patients often take over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve).

Ice or heat can be applied to the neck. If the neck injury is recent, it is recommended that patients use ice to relieve pain for the first two or three days. Afterwards, patients should apply heat with heating pads, warm showers, and hot compresses to relieve pain. To avoid injuring the skin, patients should not fall asleep while applying an ice bag or heating pad to the skin.

Neck Collars

Patients may be able to have their health care provider prescribe them a soft neck collar. The purpose of the soft neck collar is to relieve discomfort. However, in most cases, patients should only use the soft neck collar for two to four days at the most. Wearing a soft neck collar for too long can make the muscles in the neck weaker. If patients need to wear a soft neck collar for a prolonged period of time, they should take off the soft neck collar from time to time so that the neck muscles don’t become weak.


Exercise is another effective nonsurgical neck pain treatment. An exercise program typically consists of aerobic exercise and stretching and strength training. Before engaging in exercise, patients should reach out to their physical therapist or physician. Otherwise, they may end up doing exercises that make the injury or pain worse.

Aerobic exercise can involve swimming, walking, or riding a bike. The purpose of exercise is to improve the flow of blood to the muscles and speed up the healing process. Exercise can also strengthen the muscles in the back and neck.

Surgery is not always the ideal option for the treatment of neck pain. For more information about nonsurgical neck pain treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Weill Cornell Medicine.

By Skyler West

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.