Pain Management: Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain are common complaints that can be caused by a variety of factors, such as poor posture, muscle strain, injury, and arthritis. The pain can range from mild to severe and can interfere with daily activities.

There are a number of things you can do to manage neck and shoulder pain, including:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve), can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also be helpful for pain relief.
  • Ice and heat. Applying ice to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time several times a day can help to reduce inflammation and swelling. After the first 48 hours, you can switch to using heat, such as a heating pad or hot shower, to help relax muscles and relieve pain.
  • Rest. It’s important to rest your neck and shoulders when you’re experiencing pain. Avoid activities that aggravate the pain, such as heavy lifting or repetitive overhead movements.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy can help to improve range of motion, flexibility, and strength in your neck and shoulders. Your physical therapist can also teach you exercises to help prevent future pain.
  • Other treatments. In some cases, other treatments, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or injections, may be recommended.

If your neck and shoulder pain is severe or does not improve with home treatment, see your doctor. They may prescribe stronger medication or other treatments.

Here are some additional tips for managing neck and shoulder pain:

  • Maintain good posture. When you’re sitting, make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are relaxed. When you’re standing, keep your head up and your shoulders back.
  • Take breaks throughout the day. If you have a desk job, get up and move around every 20-30 minutes. If you’re doing a lot of physical activity, take breaks to stretch and rest your neck and shoulders.
  • Use ergonomic equipment. If you work on a computer, make sure your monitor is at eye level and your keyboard and mouse are at a comfortable height.
  • Strengthen your neck and shoulders. Exercises to strengthen the muscles in your neck and shoulders can help to prevent future pain. Some simple exercises include neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, and rows.