Cervicalgia Treatment

Cervicalgia treatment may consist of simple rest initially, with the application of heat or ice, as appropriate, and the possible use of a supportive neck device, such as a neck collar for a short period of time. Strengthening and stretching exercises for the neck are also a common treatment for cervicalgia as these may release muscle tension and improve posture so as to prevent future occurrences of neck pain. Patients may be referred to a physical therapist to devise such a regime and they may also be given tips on preventing neck pain, including the establishment of correct posture during their daily routine, the importance of carrying heavy weights safely, and lighter goods in a more evenly distributed fashion (such as in a backpack rather than a shoulder bag).

Massage Therapy for Cervicalgia

Massage and mobilization therapy may be suggested for some patients with cervicalgia where the problem appears to be related to tension or tightness in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Where pain the neck is an aspect of a larger pain profile then alternative strategies for pain management may be required, such as analgesics, psychosocial therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or even the prescribing of antidepressants, anxiolytics, or antispasmodics.

Cervicalgia with no Pathology

In the majority of cases of cervicalgia with no underlying pathology, the neck pain will likely resolve within three to four weeks. Patients are usually reassured that this is quite a common experience and that cervicalgia rarely indicates a serious problem requiring invasive treatment. Normal activities are to be encouraged, with care taken to avoid the suspected cause of neck pain such as sleeping in a draught or adopting poor posture at work. Specific help with this may be required, such

as engagement in sessions with an Alexander Technique practitioner, or consultation with an ergonomist for the office or work environment. Supportive devices to help with posture may be useful in the short-term but are usually discouraged as they can lead to muscle weakening and invite future problems with hypermobility of the neck. Cervical collars should not usually be work for more than two to four days unless otherwise advised. Neck pain pillows may be helpful in addressing cervicalgia connected to the patient’s sleeping position.

Some patients may be advised against driving in the short-term, particularly where they have limited range of motion. Unsafe driving with restricted neck movement may lead to accidents and whiplash which would further compromise the neck, along with the possibility of more serious consequences for both the driver and other road users. Painkillers such as NSAIDs may be used for cervicalgia treatment but are inadvisable over the longer term. Symptoms of cervicalgia that persist after four weeks require referral to a physiotherapist in many cases, and specific exercises for neck pain, along with manual therapy may be helpful at this stage. Many patients find that acupuncture relieves neck pain and can also aid relaxation to relieve any tension that is contributing to the cervicalgia.

Finding the Right Treatment for Cervicalgia

Referral to a psychologist or therapist may be appropriate if the patient’s neck pain appears to be connected to anxiety, fear, or avoidance beliefs. Where the patient has an unrelated chronic medical condition, it may be that helping to manage this more effectively can lead to the reduction or relief of neck pain. Persistent pain after twelve weeks is deemed chronic and the patient will often be referred to a specific pain clinic to develop coping strategies for their condition. Physiotherapy may be discontinued unless it displays benefits for the patient, and massage and other passive therapies are often to be avoided as they are unlikely to provide much pain relief for the majority of cervicalgia patients at this stage. Low-dose antidepressants may be prescribed as a cervicalgia treatment, and those with chronic pain, especially where it appears to be worsening will likely undergo further assessment to test for mechanical problems such as spinal stenosis which was too subtle to be observed in initial investigations. Back or neck surgery may then become appropriate to relieve a specific obstruction in the spine that is causing cervical nerve or blood vessel compression and cervicalgia.

Last Updated: 04/25/2011