Neck pain is, literally, a pain in the neck! NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City sees patients often complaining of neck discomfort. Sometimes it’s just a matter of obtaining a list of instructions about ways to manage neck pain at home with self-care methods. In more serious cases, further treatment than what is possible at home may be necessary.
How can I treat neck pain myself at home?
If your neck pain didn’t start from trauma and is not incapacitating, then you can try self-care methods at home to relieve your discomfort. Never do anything that makes the pain worse, and if you have any concerns contact Dr. Fischer for guidance. Try these methods to make your neck feel better:
- Rest – take it easy while you give your neck muscles and tendons a break. Your neck has a lot of responsibility, but it should be possible to avoid strenuous activities.
- Over-the-counter medications – a number of medications are available at your local drugstore to alleviate pain. Acetaminophen or aspirin are popular choices, as well as anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen that reduce pain as well as inflammation. Read the labels carefully so that you use the medications as instructed.
- Ice and/or heat – first, apply ice packs to your neck to reduce swelling and discomfort. This is a good first defense because the ice may help prevent swelling from worsening. After a day or two, alternate ice and heat. Do not apply continuous heat because it may increase swelling, but alternating the two can be helpful.
- Massage – ask a friend to rub your neck or visit a professional masseuse to soothe muscle tension and reduce pain.
- Improve posture – simply focusing on better posture can help alleviate neck pain. This may include things like sleeping on your back using an ergonomic pillow or altering your workstation to allow your neck to remain in a more natural position.
- Change your lifestyle – limit activities that you’ve found to exacerbate your neck pain.
What about medical care not involving surgery?
If your neck pain continues for more than four weeks or if symptoms become more severe, it’s time to schedule an appointment at NYU Langone Medical Center to see how Dr. Fischer can help. Non-surgical treatments will likely be the first things to try:
- Prescription medications – medications you can buy at your drugstore may not do the trick. Dr. Fischer will prescribe the safest and most effective options so you can feel better.
- Physical therapy – many treatment plans include some level of physical therapy that focuses on neck flexibility and strength.
- Manual manipulation – Dr. Fischer may suggest you seek treatment from a chiropractor who provides manual adjustments to the spine and neck. This can reduce pain and improve range of motion.
- Cervical epidural steroid injections – NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer will inject cortisone steroid medication directly into the cervical epidural area. An X-ray called a fluoroscope will be used to guide the procedure so that the injection goes to the ideal spot. These injections can be done up to a few times a year and can help reduce pain and increase mobility.
- Cervical facet injections – injections might be done into specific facet joints if Dr. Fischer determines that is the source of pain. These injections usually only provide temporary relief.
- Trigger point injections – if certain bundles of muscles are causing pain, trigger point injections may be done. Injections can consist of cortisone, saline, dextrose, or lidocaine.
Is surgery ever required?
If at-home and non-surgical treatments aren’t effective, you may be a candidate for surgery. This is most often related to patients who have compressed spinal cord or nerve roots. Dr. Fischer does not take surgery lightly, so this will be a last resort for most patients in an effort to give them back a healthy and pain-free lifestyle.
Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fischer.