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Neck pain or spasms - self care

Pain - neck - self-care; Neck stiffness - self-care; Cervicalgia - self-care; Whiplash - self-care


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You have been diagnosed with neck pain. Your symptoms may be caused by muscle strains or spasms, arthritis in your spine, a bulging disc, or narrowed openings for your spinal nerves or spinal cord.

Pain Relief

You can use one or more of these methods to help reduce neck pain:

Ask your health care provider about using a soft neck collar to relieve discomfort.

Acupuncture also may help relieve neck pain.

Activity Changes

To help relieve neck pain, you may have to reduce your activities. However, doctors do not recommend bed rest. You should try to stay as active as you can without making the pain worse.

These tips can help you stay active with neck pain.

After 2 to 3 weeks, slowly begin to exercise again. Your health care provider may refer you to a physical therapist. Your physical therapist can teach you which exercises are right for you and when to start.

You may need to stop or ease back on the following exercises during recovery, unless your doctor or physical therapist says it is OK:

Stretches and Exercises

As part of physical therapy, you may receive massage and stretching exercises along with exercises to strengthen your neck. Exercise can help you:

A complete exercise program should include:

Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the long run. Keep in mind that starting these exercises too soon after an injury can make your pain worse. Strengthening the muscles in your upper back can ease the stress on your neck.

Your physical therapist can help you determine when to begin neck stretching and strengthening exercises and how to do them.

Preventing Neck Pain

If you work at a computer or a desk most of the day:

Other measures to help prevent neck pain include:

Chronic Neck Pain

For some, neck pain does not go away and becomes a long-lasting (chronic) problem.

Managing chronic pain means finding ways to make your pain tolerable so you can live your life.

Unwanted feelings, such as frustration, resentment, and stress, are often a result of chronic pain. These feelings and emotions can worsen your neck pain.

Ask your health care provider about prescribing medicines to help you manage your chronic pain. Some with ongoing neck pain take narcotics to control the pain. It is best if only one health care provider is prescribing your narcotic pain medicines.

If you have chronic neck pain, ask your health care provider about a referral to a:

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if:


Lemmon R, Leonard J. Neck and back pain. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 31.

Ronthal M. Arm and neck pain. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 32.


Review Date: 7/19/2021  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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