Help for Nagging Neck Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Chronic neck pain can be caused by a variety of conditions. Therapy is geared toward the underlying cause. Another name for neck pain is cervical pain.

The cervical spine supports the neck and head. Arthritis of the neck, degenerative disc disease, and bulging or herniated discs can all result in the need for intervention. Treatment for neck pain might be combined with prescribed medications or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Treatment for neck pain should always be guided by your health practitioner. Most neck pain does not develop into a chronic condition. The first step is getting a diagnosis.

Physical therapy is the primary treatment for chronic neck pain. Exercises that include strengthening and improvement in flexibility are the goal of treatment for neck pain that lasts more than two weeks or pain that recurs intermittently. Exercises learned during physical therapy to treat neck pain are continued at home.

Exercises commonly used as chronic neck pain therapy include gentle stretching. Gentle chin tucks, and moving the head from side to side can strengthen the neck muscles, and prevent pain and stiffness, in addition to improving flexibility. Exercises are guided by your therapist and geared to the underlying problem.

Neck pain from arthritis responds especially well to regular exercise. Corticosteroid injections into the neck are sometimes used to calm pain. Compressed nerves in the neck that cause pain may require surgery. Neck pain caused by stress and improper posture also respond well to exercise, Exercises that improve posture, and rearranging workspace to alleviate potential sources of aggravation can help keep neck pain at bay.

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units provide an electrical current to damaged nerves, and can be used by patients with chronic neck pain. The units can be purchased for home use, TENS units are thought to release endorphins, natural substances that reduce pain. The units do not cure pain, but can make it more tolerable.


Neck braces might be used for neck pain associated with arthritis or bulging discs in the neck. Use of a neck brace can help control pain with movement. Your doctor will tell you if using a neck brace is an appropriate option. It is important to have a brace properly fitted. Neck braces can help alleviate pressure between the vertebrae, and also limit movement that might aggravate symptoms during activities such as walking. Neck braces are usually used short-term.

Hatha Yoga and Pilates can provide benefits for chronic pain, including the neck. Both types of exercises can help improve posture and strengthen the neck muscles, while improving flexibility. The exercises also relax and provide energy. All types of activity and exercise provide benefits for controlling pain. Speak with your doctor about specific exercises.

Massage can help relieve neck pain, and has been shown in at least one study to provide short term relief. (1)

Neck pain that does not improve with conservative treatment should be thoroughly evaluated by a physician. X-Ray, nerve conduction studies, CAT scans or MRI can diagnose structural problems that cause neck pain.

It is important to take inventory of factors that make neck pain worse. Stress and work at home or at the office can contribute to pain, causing a vicious cycle that should be evaluated.

Consider purchasing orthopedic neck pillows for neck support that can provide relief from pain. Neck pain can simply be the result of sleeping the “wrong way”. Rearrange your home and work environment to keep persistent or recurring neck pain from becoming a chronic problem.

(1) PubMed

Written by Kathleen Blanchard
Charlotte, NC
Exclusive for