Non-surgical Treatment Options for Neck Pain

Neck pain is both very common and fairly scary. Patients often rush to their doctor for scans to get to try and seek the answer to their pain but this often proves disturbing and unhelpful in equal measure. Often, neck pain is caused by poor posture, lack of movement or poor movement patterns that are occurring both in the neck and the rest of the body. Other common causes include sudden injury from an accident, degenerative disorders, spinal infection, and even stress or emotional tension. Most cases of neck pain do not require a surgical treatment. Self-help measures or home treatments help deal with most cases of neck pain. For more serious neck problems, you can visit a physiotherapy clinic or try other non-surgical treatment options.


If you have acute, short-term neck pain, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers or seek medical attention. Some common types of drugs that work well for neck pain include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and even opioids.

Cervical collars 

You may also be advised to use cervical collars to help support the neck and restrict extreme neck movements for a short period. Make sure you do not use it for more than one or two days. Long-term use of soft collars has not shown to be of benefit and may even worsen a neck condition by causing weakening of the surrounding muscles that support the neck.

Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy)

Combining manual therapy with exercise is one of the most effective treatments of neck pain. Manual therapy includes targeted soft tissue release (various types of specific massage), mobilisation of the joints and manipulation. If done correctly, this type of treatment helps release tension and muscle stiffness naturally. However, it is very important to undergo any kind of manual therapy under the guidance of an expert such as a Physiotherapist or Osteopath. chiropractor or osteopathic doctor. Physical therapy (physiotherapy) can resolve most cases of neck pain within three to six weeks. You practitioner will also ask you to continue doing some stretching and strengthening exercises at home to help prevent any possible relapse.

It will be important to seek a physiotherapist that looks for root cause of your condition, be it postural, your movement patterns or restrictions within your shoulders, mid back or even further afield to help solve the route of your problem. More research is now showing that is almost important to get the root of the problem with an MRI! 

Dry Needling

Dry needling is another technique often utilised my physiotherapists, osteopaths and medical doctors to resolve pain and reduce spasm, restoring muscle length. It uses the same type of needles as used in acupuncture but in this case the needles are briefly inserted into areas bands of tension causing a “twitch response”. This response causes a relaxation of the tissue and the brief injury to the tissue via the needle helps accelerate the healing process.

In summary there are a large range of treatments available for neck pain. Most of the time neck and back pain can not be adequately explained with an x-ray or MRI and does NOT require surgical intervention and can be resolved with physiotherapy or “conservative” management. The key is early assessment by a qualified practitioner to rule out any serious conditions and identify the route cause of your problem followed by appropriate manual therapy, exercise prescription and potentially adjuncts such as dry needling or acupuncture.

Michael L.