How to Cure Neck Pain Fast? 8 Best Relief & Treatments

Khang T. Vuong, MHA
Khang T. Vuong, MHA17 Sep 2023
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️

Let's be real, neck pain sucks! It lasts for days, while neck pain isn't as painful as an open wound, it can hinder your range of motion greatly and disrupts many daily activities. Even worse, it is hard to explains to someone who hasn't experienced it before. 

Various strategies exist for neck pain management, ranging from over-the-counter pain relievers to physical therapy. While heat and cold therapies offer instant relief, lifestyle changes can prevent recurring pain. Acupuncture and massage therapy are alternative treatments. OTC creams provide temporary relief, but prescription meds, though effective, come with potential side effects.

Over the Counter Pain RelieversTemporary relief; Easily accessible.Prolonged use can lead to liver damage, kidney problems, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Physical Therapy & ExerciseImmediate and long-term pain relief; Prevents further injury.Need for professional guidance to avoid exacerbating the pain.
Heat and Cold TherapyImmediate pain relief; Easy to apply.Risk of burns or frostbite; not suitable for inflamed areas or stiff muscles.
Massage TherapyRelaxes muscles, improves circulation, and reduces anxiety.Need to choose the right type of massage for specific pain.
AcupunctureBalances body's energy flow; Provides significant pain reduction.Requires trained professionals; Some people might be skeptical or fearful of needles.
Lifestyle AdjustmentsPrevention of neck pain; Overall well-being and improved quality of life.Requires consistency and regularity; Need to identify and avoid triggers.
Over-the-counter Pain Creams/GelsImmediate relief from minor aches; Provides cooling or heating sensation.Temporary relief; Not suitable for open wounds or sensitive areas.
Prescription MedicationsEffective pain management; Targets specific pain types.Potential side effects; Risk of addiction with opioids.

Understand Biological Causation of Neck Pain

The occurrence of neck pain has considerably increased over recent years. Statistically speaking, around 30% to 50% of adults experience neck pain annually, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI, 2021). A majority of individuals, across all age groups, will experience neck pain at least once in their lifetime. This adds to the global burden of disability and impacts the quality of life. The strains and sprains due to activities such as prolonged computer use, improper sleeping position, carrying heavy items, or even poor posture often result in this discomfort. This pain can originate from any part or structure in the neck to include joints, ligaments, muscles, and discs, causing different types of pain from dull aches, throbbing, to stabbing sensations.

Degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis or nerve compression disorders like the cervical spondylosis may also be at the heart of frequent neck pains. The neck starts getting stiff with motion loss in osteoarthritis, whereas nerve root compression could lead to pain spreading into the shoulder, arm, or hand in cervical spondylosis. These causes are further compounded by underlying genetic factors, making certain groups more susceptible to developing these conditions.

1. Over the Counter Pain Relievers: An Accessible Short-Term Solution

Over the counter pain relievers, including Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, are widely used to alleviate acute bouts of neck pain. These non-prescription medications can provide temporary relief and are readily accessible in most households, making them a convenient initial response to discomfort. A study by Harvard Medical School confirms the efficacy of these medications in providing varying degrees of pain relief (Harvard Medical School source).

MedicationTypePurposeTypical Dosage
AcetaminophenPain relieverReduces pain325-650 mg every 4-6 hours (adults)
IbuprofenNSAID*Reduces pain, inflammation, and fever200-400 mg every 4-6 hours (adults)
NaproxenNSAID*Reduces pain, inflammation, and fever220-440 mg initially, then 220 mg every 8-12 hours (adults)
AspirinNSAID*Reduces pain, inflammation, and fever325-650 mg every 4 hours (adults)
Capsaicin creamTopical analgesicReduces pain by numbing the areaApply 3-4 times daily (adults)

Effectiveness and Safety: Balancing Pain Relief and Health Risk

While these over-the-counter drugs can deliver quick pain relief, it is essential to consider their potential side effects and health risks. For instance, prolonged and frequent use of such medicines can cause health problems like liver damage or gastrointestinal issues. Therefore, while effective in the short term, these pain relievers should not be seen as a long-term solution to persistent neck pain.

Considerations: The Health Risks of Long-Term Use

Despite their accessibility and effectiveness, over the counter pain relievers are not without their risks. Continuous and incorrect usage can lead to health complications such as kidney damage, liver problems, or gastrointestinal bleeding.

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Khang T. Vuong, MHA

Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.

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