For minor, common causes of neck pain:
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Apply heat or ice to the painful area. One good method is to use ice for the first 48 - 72 hours, then use heat after that. Heat may be applied with hot showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad. Be careful not to fall asleep with a heating pad on.
- Perform slow range-of-motion exercises -- up-and-down, side-to-side, and from ear-to-ear -- to gently stretch the neck muscles.
- Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful areas.
- Try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow.
Call your health care provider if
- One week of self care hasn't helped.
- You have a fever and headache, and your neck is so stiff that you cannot touch your chin to your chest. THIS MAY BE MENINGITIS – call your doctor or get to a hospital.
- You have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand.
- Your neck pain was caused by a fall, blow, or injury.
- You have swollen glands or a lump in your neck.
- Your pain does not respond to standard doses of over-the-counter pain medication.