7 Ways to Treat A Stiff Neck – Starting with the Fastest

Today, your rude awakening wasn’t the alarm clock.

It was your neck. 

If you have some or all of these symptoms, you have a stiff neck:

  • headache
  • tense muscles or muscle spasms
  • pain and difficulty or inability to turn the head
  • general neck soreness

Let’s look at seven ways to treat it, starting with the fastest. 

1. Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medicine 

If you don’t have any time, taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or aspirin can lessen the pain by reducing inflammation. 

2. Try Self-Massage 

Step one: Find the sore, tense area with whichever hand is closest. You may be able to feel a raised lump. 

Step two: Press into the knot with one or more fingers. You can get creative and use a prop like a plastic lip balm or tennis ball instead of your fingers.

You may feel pain, but it should feel like the productive pain of a massage rather than sharp pain.

Step three: Turn your head slightly toward the side opposite the knot, then slowly bend it down toward a position parallel with your armpit. 

Step four: Repeat steps two and three about 20 times, then gently stretch your upper back as you usually do when getting out of bed. 

You can do this again throughout the day as needed. 

3. Try Hot Therapy 

Heat therapy can reduce pain by relaxing sore and tightened muscles. 

An easy way to apply heat is to dip a towel in warm or hot water, ring it out, then wrap it around your neck for as long as it’s warm. 

4. Try Cold Therapy

Cold therapy can reduce pain from pulled and tense muscles by lessening inflammation.  

To make a cold pack, put something frozen or cold such as a small wet towel, bag of ice, or reusable plastic freezer pack, in a sealed plastic bag. 

You may want to wrap a shirt or towel around the bag so that it doesn’t feel too cold against your skin. 

Next, hold the pack against the sore area of your neck long enough to feel it get very cold or even numb (but not painful). 

Heat or cold therapy alone can relieve pain, but the two can be even more effective when used together.

5. Get A Professional Massage

A massage therapist has the training to work the tension out and improve circulation in your sore neck.

6. Avoid Strenuous Physical Activity

Sometimes less is more. 

Sit out from your regular exercise routine or sports participation, and cancel your appointment to help move furniture.

Resting your sore neck is the priority.

7. Visit A Pain Specialist

It’s time to visit a pain specialist when your pain and stiffness don’t improve after more than a day or two of self-treatment. 

Pain specialists can identify whether a more serious underlying condition than tension or a pulled muscle is causing pain and discomfort in your neck. 

Pain Relief in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Outlying Areas

At Texas Pain Physicians, our team of pain specialists is here to help you find relief from the pain and stiffness. 

With 16 locations in major Texas cities, chances are we are nearby you. 

Feel free to call us at (972) 636-5727 or book an appointment online.

How Pain Specialists Manage and Treat Herniated Disc Pain

Pain from a herniated disc can be mild and easy to handle, moderate and distracting, or severe enough to send you straight to a doctor.

It can hit suddenly and resolve in a few days. It can be constant or chronic and last for months or longer. 

Doctors specialized in pain management recommend treating herniated disc pain with conservative, non-surgical treatments. They may recommend surgery only after all other treatments have failed. 

The Three Types of Herniated Discs 

1. Contained Herniation (bulging disc)

With this type of herniation, there is generally no pain or mild pain. 

Bulging discs occur when pressure between the vertebrae pinches the disc, forcing it to bulge. When there is pain, it comes from the bulging disc putting pressure on nearby spinal nerves.

2. Non-Contained Herniation (severe bulging disc)

This severe disc herniation generally causes severe back pain.

It can also be associated with numbness, weakness, and tingling in the extremities from the extreme pressure on spinal nerves. 

3. Sequestered herniation (disc rupture)

This type of herniation can cause intense pain and decreased mobility. It is also associated with numbness, weakness, and tingling in the extremities.

Disc ruptures can occur when non-contained herniations or severe bulging discs go untreated. As pressure between the vertebrae builds up, it eventually overloads the discs, forcing them to rupture. 

Where They Occur in the Body

Most herniated discs are in the neck and lower back.

Lumbar pain (lower back) 

Sciatica or leg pain is the most common symptom associated with herniated discs in the lower back.

Patients describe sharp, burning, or radiating pain down the lower back, through the buttock, and down the leg (pain travels through the sciatic nerve). 

Herniated lumbar discs can also cause numbness and muscle weakness in the foot and ankle. 

Cervical herniated disc (neck) 

Depending on the location of the herniated disc, pain can present in the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. The pain from cervical herniated discs can last for days, weeks, months or longer, and be constant or chronic. 

When a herniated disc puts too much pressure on cervical nerves, patients can experience tingling, numbness, and weakness in the deltoid muscle (shoulder muscle), biceps, wrist muscles, hands, and triceps.

Thoracic Spine (upper back)

Disc herniations in the upper back are less common and rarely cause pain. When there is pain, it presents in the upper back and chest. 

Pain Treatments for Them

Pain management specialists typically begin herniated disc treatment with rest and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).


Depending on the severity of the pain, medication may make it easier for patients to tolerate physical therapy. 

  • OTC NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen (recommended for mild to moderate pain)
  • oral narcotic agents (prescribed for severe pain)
  • oral steroids (prescribed to treat severe pain and reduce inflammation)

Home and Non-M.D. Treatments

These are treatments that don’t require a pain management doctor’s expertise.

When applied for 4-6 weeks, these treatments can help reduce pain and discomfort. Applying more than one treatment at once may achieve better results. 

  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Moderate physical activity
  • Chiropractic
  • Moderate exercise
  • Changing sleep positions 
  • physical therapy
  • Myofascial release and/or massage

Therapeutic Injections

Pain management specialists may recommend therapeutic injections if conventional therapies and medications don’t work or provide relief soon enough. 

Therapeutic injections can relieve pain for days, weeks, and even months, which buys time for conservative, non-surgical treatments to work.

Two commonly used therapeutic injections: 

  • epidural injections: Used to reduce inflammation and provide extended pain relief.
  • nerve blocks: Used to diagnose the source of the neck pain and to provide extended pain relief.

Herniated Disc Treatment in Texas

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc or think you may have one, Texas Pain Physicians can help. We have offices in Houston, Dallas, and a dozen other locations across Texas.

Give us a call or book an appointment online and start your pain-free journey today!

Young asian woman touching her neck while wincing in pain.

The VERY Painful Pinched Nerve… 7 Ways to Avoid This Common Injury.

Many athletes call them ‘stingers.’ Doctors call them pinched or compressed nerves. 

And they hurt like giant bee stings. 

The pain usually hits in the neck, in an area known as the brachial plexus, where the nerves extend down into the arms.

Pinched nerves have sudden and gradual causes; they can strike suddenly when lifting a heavy object or gradually develop because of poor posture.

Here are seven things you can do to avoid suffering a pinched nerve.

1. Get Enough Sleep

The best way to prevent a pinched nerve is to let your mind and body recover from the day.

When you have more energy to think clearly, you are less likely to make uncoordinated movements that lead to injuries.  

2. Practice Good Sitting Posture

Consistent poor sitting posture can cause pinched nerves. Try to sit so that your neck isn’t bent.

If you work in an office, adjust your monitor so that the top edge is eye level.

3. Stand More. 

Sitting for long periods with bad posture can cause pinched nerves. 

If you work at a table or desk, try adjusting your workstation so that you can work while standing.

4. Practice sound body mechanics.  

It’s easy to strain your neck and back.

When getting into or out of bed, exercising, or hiking up a mountain, try to make smooth, mechanically sound body movements.

And if you have to move to a new place or help your neighbors move, lift heavy objects with your legs instead of your back. 

5. Don’t play contact sports. 

Many people grow up playing contact sports like soccer, basketball, and American football.

The fitness aspect is good for you, but the contact can lead to pinched nerves and other sports injuries.

And pinched nerves are common injuries in contact sports. If you play contact sports, warm-up, stay hydrated, and take breaks. 

6. Do Strength and Flexibility Exercises.

Stretching and strength-building activities like yoga and pilates stretch the nerves in your neck and arms.

This loosens the tension and relieves pressure on your nerves, making pinched nerves less likely.

7. Do physical therapy.

Physical therapy methods like massage and cold laser therapy can prevent and lessen muscle strain and muscle inflammation. 

Pain Management and Treatment at Texas Pain Physicians

Have a pinched nerve or think you may be at risk for a pinched nerve? We have expert pain management doctors who treat them and help you prevent them. 

Give us a call at (972) 636-5727 or book your appointment today!