Initial efforts to manage chronic neck pain should include a conversation with your doctor and an accurate diagnosis of the source of the pain to better determine treatment options. However, ongoing neck pain and discomfort, defined as chronic when it lasts beyond three months, doesn’t automatically limit your options to spinal surgery. In fact, there are many non-surgical options you can take right now to live a productive life with chronic neck pain.
Stress can aggravate pain to a level that’s no longer manageable. The good thing about incorporating relaxation strategies into your daily routine is that benefits can go far beyond your neck pain. Stress relief strategies to manage chronic neck pain may include:
- Deep breathing
- Biofeedback (involving the use of special machines to control biological functions like heart rate and muscle tension)
- Visual imagery (concentrating on positive, relaxing images or audio prompts)
For pain related to weakened neck muscles, certain exercises can boost stability. Trigger point exercises, in particular, target the facet joints (joints that allow for flexibility with neck movements) in the lower cervical vertebrae. Consult a physical therapist for specific exercise recommendations that safely fit your capabilities.
There is no special diet or so-called “miracle food” that will automatically ease your chronic neck pain. However, research suggests that a diet rich in certain nutrients can promote healthy bones and joints, which may help reduce inflammation and related joint discomfort. Consider the following dietary additions that may help you live well with chronic neck pain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Calcium and vitamin D
Maintaining a proper posture and avoiding unnatural or uncomfortable sleep positions can also help you live well with chronic neck pain. An assortment of over-the-counter and prescription medications, ranging from topical creams and gels to long-lasting antidepressants, can also provide meaningful relief.
If you’ve exhausted all of your treatment options and are considering a form of spine surgery, schedule a consultation with The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Santa Monica MD, Dr. Hyun Bae, can meet with you to determine an accurate diagnosis and will identify and explain all of your treatment options so you can start the road to a more productive and healthy lifestyle.