How to Treat a Sore Neck at Home
Neck pain, sprains, and strains happen to us all. We go to bed feeling tight in our neck and shoulders, and the next day are unable to move our head. With most cases of neck pain there is not one specific incident or acute trauma that led to the development of the injury.
Many of these cases can be improved at home with some simple treatments. The first treatment is always to ice. Ice decreases the pain and inflammation in the injured tissue. It decreases muscle spasms and blocks pain signals traveling from the neck to the brain. Ice should be used the first 48 hours after any injury. After that time icing can continue or switching to heat. Some people prefer alternating heat for 15 minutes followed by ice for 15 minutes. The alternating pattern of heat and ice can be used throughout the course of the day. And finally some people prefer to use heat after 48 hours to increase blood flow to the muscles and injured tissue.
The second home treatment is applying light manual traction to the head and neck. Lightly lifting up on the skull and stretching the head can relieve some of the pain. Likewise this can also be performed by allowing a friend to lightly pull on the head to enhance the stretch. This maneuver should be performed in a pain-free range of motion.
Having a partner perform manual cervical traction can be done in two ways. The first is to have your partner slide his hands underneath the base of your skull as you’re lying on your back. With his fingertips at the base of your skull, lightly leaned backwards to stretch the neck.
This can also be done with a towel rolled and placed under the occiput of the head. The friend will be holding the ends of the towel and lightly stretching and pulling until you feel a stretch. The position can be held for one to two minutes before slowly reducing the stretch. This can be performed several times per day.
A third home treatment involves pressure points or acupressure. This can be done either by yourself or with a partner. Place your thumbs into the muscles along the trapezius. Slowly increase the pressure until you feel a comfortable pain. Sharp stabbing pain should never be felt during the maneuver. Common pressure points are located throughout the trapezius and up to the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull.
A fourth treatment option is to perform light neck exercises and stretches. All motions and movements should be performed in a pain-free motion. The first exercise involves moving the neck in a flexion and extension motion. It is similar to nodding yes 10 times. If pain is felt during the nod, stop and move the opposite direction. With the next nod stop before pain is felt, as every motion should be performed without pain. The second part of the exercise is to nod the head no, similar to looking over the left and right shoulders. Start by keeping the head in the neutral position and slowly looking to the left and stopping before pain. Then turn to the right looking in the opposite direction. Once again, 10 pain-free nods should be performed before moving on to the third set, which is tipping the ear toward the shoulders. With the head in a neutral position, slowly tip the right year towards the right shoulder stopping before pain is felt. Then tip the head towards the left. Repeat tipping the ear towards the left and right shoulder. Perform three sets of 10 of these neck exercises and repeat several times a day.
Many people can decrease their neck pain and soreness with simple, at-home procedures. If the home treatments and therapies do not decrease the pain within several days, treatment from a trained provider might be necessary.
Your chiropractor will perform an evaluation on your neck to determine the location of the injury and which tissues have been damaged. Specific exercises or stretches for your condition may be given. Therapeutic applications such as ice, heat, electric, acupuncture, ultrasound, massage therapy, or cold laser might be used to decrease pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
Several different types of adjustment techniques can be utilized by the chiropractor to increase pain-free joint range of motion. Chiropractic care involves increasing and restoring normal joint motion and movement. There are different types of chiropractic digestive or manipulative techniques to increase neck joint motion. Activator technique utilizes a spring-loaded device to gently tap the joints. Thompson Drop Technique uses specific tables that drop to give the chiropractor a mechanical advantage to adjust the joints without straining or rotating the neck. Most people are familiar with manual manipulation, in which the chiropractor will use his hands to gently adjust the joint with a controlled push. Manual manipulation uses a controlled and skilled thrust to "open the joint back up." Learn more and see examples of Chiropractic Adjustive Techniques.
Mild cases of neck pain should improve within one to two weeks. Moderate and severe cases of neck pain will take longer to completely recover from.