Neck pain

Most neck pain goes away after a few weeks. There are things you can do yourself to ease it. If it doesn't go away, see a GP.

How you can ease neck pain yourself

Do

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen - or use ibuprofen gel on your neck
  • use a low, firm pillow
  • put heat or cold packs on your neck
  • try neck exercises

Don't

  • wear a neck collar - it’s better to keep your neck moving (unless a doctor tells you not to)
  • do anything that could be dangerous because you can’t move your neck - for example, driving or cycling
Putting heat or cold packs on your neck

Try either of these:

  • a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel for 5 minutes, 3 times a day
  • a hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel for 20 minutes 2 to 3 times a day

You can also buy heat or cold packs from a pharmacy.

See a GP if:

  • pain or stiffness doesn’t go away after a few weeks
  • painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen haven’t worked
  • you’re worried about the pain
  • you have other symptoms like pins and needles or a cold arm - this could be something more serious

What can cause neck pain

The most common causes are:

  • the neck becoming locked in an awkward position while sleeping
  • bad posture - for example, when sitting at a desk for a long time
  • a pinched nerve
  • an injury - for example, whiplash from a traffic accident or fall

How you can prevent neck pain

Do

  • when sleeping, make sure your head is the same height as the rest of your body
  • have a firm mattress
  • sit upright - roll your shoulders back gently and bring your neck back

Don't

  • keep your neck in the same position for a long time - for example, when sitting at a desk
  • sleep on your front
  • twist your neck when you’re in bed

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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