What Not to Do If You Have Neck Pain (2024)

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ByBrett Sears, PT

Updated on November 08, 2021

Medically reviewed byOluseun Olufade, MD

If you have neck pain, then you may benefit from physical therapy to help decrease your pain and improve your neck range of motion (ROM) and mobility.Your physical therapist can tell you what you need to do to help you return to your normal activities. And they can also tell you what you should avoid if you have neck pain.

What Not to Do If You Have Neck Pain (1)

When treating your neck pain, you need to be active in your treatment, and you should stop doing certain things that may be causing your neck pain or things that may be leading to unnecessary worry and anxiety about your pain. Avoiding certain activities can be an important component of managing your cervical pain.

When neck pain strikes, check in with your healthcare provider and then visit your physical therapist to learn how to treat it. Below, you can learn about some of the things to stop doing while managing your neck pain.

Don't Wait for the Pain to Go Away

If you develop neck pain, you may feel that if you simply wait, the pain will disappear just as suddenly as it appeared.While this may occasionally be true, there are some things that you should to do help make the pain go away when neck pain strikes.

Check-in with your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and get started on treatment. Most neck pain requires little more than postural correction and exercises, so no need to worry about invasive procedures like injections or surgery (which may help, but only in severe cases.)

A visit to your physical therapist to learn the proper exercises to initiate can help you rapidly return to your previous pain-free lifestyle. Your physical therapist will also teach you strategies to keep the pain from coming back so you maintain control.

Don't Slouch

Poor posture while sitting or standing is one of the major causes of neck pain. If you develop pain in your neck, have your physical therapist check your posture.

They can offer ideas to help you consistently change your posture and teach you the proper way to sit to keep your neck in the best position possible. Postural exercises may be prescribed to help you improve your sitting or standing posture as well.

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Don't Remain Sedentary

Stop being a couch potato. Exercise is one of your main tools in keeping your neck moving normally and keeping the pain away.

General exercise can help you keep neck pain at a minimum, and specific neck exercises and postural strengthening exercises can ensure that you rapidly resolve your neck pain and keep it from coming back.

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Don't Use Too Many Pillows

If you are sleeping with more than one pillow, stop. Your neck is comprised of multiple bones that form a forward curve called a lordosis. When you sleep with multiple pillows, you are flexing your head forward while sleeping, and this can cause you to lose your cervical lordosis and place increased stress on your neck's discs, joints, and muscles.

Learn to sleep with one pillow and use a cervical roll to help support your neck's natural forward curve while your sleep.

Don't Rely on Passive Treatments

Your physical therapist is a movement expert who can offer you actionable strategies to treat your neck pain. Some physical therapists use passive treatments like ultrasound or cervical traction to treat neck pain. But relying too heavily on these passive treatments is not the most effective way to treat your neck pain.

Make sure your physical therapist is teaching you active exercises and strategies so you can learn to self-manage your neck pain.

Although neck pain most often is a mechanical problem in your body, sometimes serious conditions manifest themselves as neck pain. If you have persistent neck pain or pain associated with fatigue, fever, or weight loss, you should get to your healthcare provider right away to investigate the cause of your pain.

Neck pain can cause you to lose sleep, miss work, or avoid participating in normal recreational activities. Working with your physical therapist can help you learn what you need to do, and what you should stop doing, to manage your neck pain.

Don't Text Excessively

Most folks are tied to their smartphones and tablets, and many people use their phones to text frequently throughout the day.When texting and looking down at your phone for hours on end, you are placing your neck in an extreme position of forwarding flexion. This can lead to a text neck, a relatively new condition of neck pain caused by excessive smartphone and tablet use.

Consult your physical therapist and learn how to counteract the forces that you are placing on your neck while texting.

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A Word From Verywell

When neck pain strikes, you can control your pain by avoiding certain things. By stopping activities that may be causing your pain and by increasing your exercise, you can quickly take control of your pain. Visit your physical therapist to learn how to properly treat your neck pain so you can get back to your normal active lifestyle.

How to Get Rid of Neck Pain Yourself

8 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Sterling M, de Zoete R, Coppieters I. Farrell S. Best evidence rehabilitation for chronic pain part 4. J Clin Med. 2019 Aug;8(8):1219. doi:10.3390/jcm8081219

  2. Manchikanti L, Nampiaparampil DE, Candido KD, et al. Do cervical epidural injections provide long-term relief in neck and upper extremity pain? A systematic review. Pain Physician. 2015 Jan-Feb;18(1):39-60.

  3. Cramer H, Mehling W, Saha F, Dobos G, Lauche R. Postural awareness and its relation to pain: validation of an innovative instrument measuring awareness of body posture in patients with chronic pain.BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018 Apr;19(1):109. doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9

  4. Louw S, Makwela S, Manas L, Meyer L, Terblanche D, Brink Y. Effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis.S Afr J Physiother. 2017 Nov;73(1):392. doi:10.4102/sajp.v73i1.392

  5. Kim H, Jun H, Kim J, et al. The effect of different pillow heights on the parameters of cervicothoracic spine segments.Korean J Spine. 2015 Sep;12(3):135-138. doi:10.14245/kjs.2015.12.3.135

  6. Fazli F, Farahmand B, Azadinia F, Amiri A. The Effect of Ergonomic Latex Pillow on Head and Neck Posture and Muscle Endurance in Patients With Cervical Spondylosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.J Chiropr Med. 2019 Aug;18(3):155-162. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2019.02.003

  7. Madson TJ, Hollman JH. Cervical traction for managing neck pain: A survey of physical therapists in the United States.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Feb;47(3):200-208. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.6914

  8. Fares J, Fares MY, Fares Y. Musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents: Risk factors and complications.Surg Neurol Int. 2017 May;8(1):72. doi:10.4103/sni.sni_445_16

What Not to Do If You Have Neck Pain (2)

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.

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