For most cases of neck pain you should carry on with your normal daily activities as you can, try and keep active and take painkillers to relieve the symptoms. You can also try the following to help manage your symptoms;
- take regular paracetomol, ibuprofen or a combination of the two, to control the pain this should be taken at regular intervals without exceeding the maximal dose to ‘stay ahead’ of symptoms
- a hot water bottle or heat pack can help reduce the pain and any muscle spasm
- try a low firm pillow at night as using too many pillows may force your neck to bend unnaturally
- remember to keep good posture as bad posture can cause neck pain and make it worse
- avoid driving if you have difficulty turning your head as this may prevent you being able to view traffic
- try some neck exercises to move your neck if it is stiff and sore. Slowly and gently move your head/neck in all directions separately. DO NOT ‘roll’ your neck as this can make symptoms worse
- DO NOT wear a neck collar as there is no evidence to suggest wearing a neck collar will help to heal your neck.
Preventing neck pain
You may find the following helpful in preventing neck pain;
- ensure that you have good posture when doing tasks at home and work. This means keeping the gentle arch in your neck, keeping your head in line with your shoulders i.e. not slumped forwards or twisted. For example if you work with documents and a PC at work you may find an inline document holder useful to hold your papers on.
- take regular breaks from static postures such as your desk, driving or any activity where your neck is held in the same position for a long period of time
- stress can make your neck stiff so try some relaxation techniques if you feel this might be an issue for you
- at night try not to sleep on your front and normally one pillow is enough. You need to ensure that your neck is in line with the rest of your body. A firm mattress is also better for your neck and lower back.
As with most aches and pains see your GP if the pain or stiffness does not improve after a few days or weeks, if you cannot control the pain using ordinary painkillers, or if you are worried your neck pain could have a more serious cause.