Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ


My doctor gave me some neck exercises to do for neck pain. My neck hurts too much to even attempt these. What should I do?


Treatment for neck pain depends on the underlying cause and whether the symptoms are acute or chronic. Exercises are often the best choice for chronic pain. Exercises are not the first choice for pain caused by infection, tumor, or fracture.

Acute pain describes recent symptoms, usually from trauma or overuse. Chronic pain is usually defined as pain lasting three or more months. Chronic pain continues after the six-to-eight weeks normally needed for tissue healing.

With acute symptoms, treatment centers on reducing inflammation. Antiinflammatory drugs and/or analgesics (pain relievers) may be used. Rest, ice, and gentle motion are often advised during acute episodes.

Chronic pain is treated more often with exercise and activity. Sometimes people with chronic neck pain do have acute flareups. This may describe your situation. At times like these, the patient may need treatment to calm down the acute symptoms before progressing to the exercise program.

It's best to make a follow-up phone call or visit to your doctor. You may need to see a physical therapist to help with pain management. A different set of exercises may be needed during acute flareups. The therapist can guide you through the acute and chronic phases of neck pain. Riku Nikander, MSc, PT, et al. Dose-Response Relationship of Specific Training to Reduce Chronic Neck Pain and Disability. In Medicine & Sciance in Sports & Exercise. December 2006. Vol. 38. No. 12. Pp. 2068-2074.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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