How to Relieve Neck and Nerve Pain from Cervical Spondylosis
Aging can be a pain in the neck—literally. Natural degeneration of the upper spine begins early in adulthood, and by age 60 many people develop neck pain due to vertebral arthritis or disc problems. Called cervical spondylosis or cervical arthritis, it can also limit your range of motion. It can even lead to cervical radiculopathy, which is pain, numbness or weakness caused by a pinched nerve root. But, all of these symptoms often improve with stretching and strengthening the neck muscles. Find out what types of self-care and other treatments can help relieve cervical spondylosis pain.
1. Stretching Exercises
When your neck hurts, you’re more likely to avoid moving it. That causes the neck muscles to contract and become more rigid. Performing gentle neck stretching exercises can restore length, flexibility and strength to your neck muscles. Stronger neck muscles, in turn, helps support your neck relieving pain and giving you back range of motion. A physical therapist can help you learn the correct technique for these neck exercises, which require no special equipment and can be performed when sitting or lying down. Do the exercises multiple times a day for best results.
2. Good Posture
Poor posture causes neck pain and may contribute to degenerative changes in the upper spine. It’s particularly bad to sit with the head thrust forward, as many people do when working on a computer at their job. This posture contributes to the pain of cervical spondylosis radiculopathy. To relieve this type of pain, be mindful of your posture. Walk tall, with your ears aligned vertically with your shoulders. Sit with your ears likewise aligned with the shoulders and your chin slightly tucked. If you practice good posture, your neck pain may go away for good.
3. Ice and Heat
For many people, cervical spondylosis symptoms first occur around or after age 60 and begin with pain along one side of the neck. To relieve this pain, you can try alternating cold packs and a heating pad to the affected area. Place a cold pack atop a towel at the site of the pain and leave it in place for 20 minutes, then remove it and apply a heating pad set to ‘low’ for the same length of time. If you experience severe pain or numbness in the arms that won’t go away, see your doctor for a diagnosis or, if you already have a diagnosis, to evaluate new or worsening symptoms.
During sleep, the neck should remain in a neutral position, aligned straight with the spine. Sleeping on a conventional pillow, however, may force the neck to bend up or down, which contributes to neck pain. An ergonomic latex pillow for cervical spondylosis may relieve neck pain and restore range of motion, according to some studies. You can obtain a cervical pillow at various online retailers. If you cannot get used to sleeping on an ergonomic pillow, you can try a pillow with a customizable loft to support your neck properly during sleep (also available through online retailers).
5. Pain Relieving Patches
Another excellent first-line home treatment for cervical spondylosis is an over-the-counter pain relieving patch. Some of these patches contain lidocaine, a numbing medication. Others contain aspirin, a pain reliever. And still others contain liniment products that warm and soften the muscles. Because these flexible patches can adhere to the angular shape of the neck/shoulder area, they make an excellent choice to relieve cervical spondylosis pain. You may need to try a variety of patches to find the one that best treats your neck discomfort.
6. Anti-inflammatory Medications
Most people can safely take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to relieve neck pain due to a pinched nerve, osteoarthritis, or a bulging spinal disc. You can try aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium to learn which product helps your pain the best. Always take these medications according to the package instructions, and never exceed the maximum dosage. If you find yourself taking anti-inflammatory medications frequently (daily, for example) for neck pain, see your doctor about medical interventions (like a corticosteroid injection) that might provide longer-lasting relief.
Because cervical spondylosis causes muscle tightening, massage therapy can be beneficial for relieving pain and restoring range of motion. If you have options, choose a massage therapist with specific expertise in treating cervical spondylosis, and see them regularly for massages. Massage can restore suppleness to the neck muscles and may improve your ability to turn your head side-to-side. Any type of neck massage might benefit cervical spondylosis, and those that use heat may provide even more pain relief. You can also ask your doctor for a physical therapy referral. Your therapist can combine neck massage with exercises you do at home.