Pain relievers Acetaminophen can also be used in combination with NSAIDs to treat more severe neck pain. Sometimes, stronger pain relievers (such as codeine) are used for a limited time if neck pain interferes with your ability to perform normal activities. Not only does warming up help reduce muscle pain after exercise, but it can also improve your overall performance. A cortisone injection can relieve inflammation and swelling of the neck, and that can help with neck pain.
An opioid may be prescribed for more severe neck pain that cannot be controlled with acetaminophen or NSAIDs alone. A neck pain can also cause tension headaches in which the pain moves to the back of the head and sometimes behind the eyes. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help with pain and can prevent the neck from becoming more painful by allowing you to relax your neck muscles. If you've had pain or stiffness in your neck for a month or more, your family doctor may be able to refer you to a physical therapist.
Although it can be incredibly uncomfortable, most neck pain is caused by simple muscle strain, and most people recover within a few days. The FDA has also approved the use of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) and botulinum toxin type B (Myobloc) to treat neck pain caused by severe muscle spasms. When OTC pain relief doesn't help neck pain, it's important to see your doctor to find out the underlying cause of the discomfort and, in turn, what is the best pain reliever to treat it. For neck pain caused by a pinched nerve or nerve disorder, relief can come from antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and nerve blockers, medicines that work by interfering with the way the brain receives or interprets pain signals or by blocking pain signals sent from a nerve irritated.
Holding a neck filled with wheat and lavender, or other soft neck warmer (heated in the microwave), on the neck can help, as can other sources of heat. When rest, medication, and physical rehabilitation don't work to improve neck pain, you may be a candidate for neck surgery. If the pain is moderate, responsive to pain relievers and gentle movement, and wasn't caused by a fall or accident, you can often relieve neck pain yourself. Sometimes pain can be managed with pain relievers and following the advice below (see Preventing Neck Pain and Stiffness).
In some cases, neck pain may result from more serious conditions, such as polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), which requires expert attention. If your neck pain doesn't improve after two weeks, you feel numbness or tingling in your arms, and normal over-the-counter strength, pain relievers and other pain relief methods don't help, you should see your doctor. Sometimes neck pain is caused by “wear and tear” that occurs on the bones and joints of the neck.