Common ailments

Neck pain

I recently woke up with a very stiff neck that is still causing me considerable discomfort and pain. I have been taking paracetamol but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem and is usually nothing to worry about. Quite often, it is caused simply by sleeping in an awkward position and the pain usually subsides within a few days.

To help the healing process, try to stay mobile and go about your usual daily routine as normal. Gentle movement and exercise will help to increase the range of movement in your neck. Some simple neck exercises you can try include gently tensing your neck muscles as you tilt your head up and down and from side to side, as well as carefully twisting your head from left to right. These exercises will help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your range of movement.

You may also find it helpful to apply some gentle warmth to your neck to help relax the muscles and relieve pain. You can try using a heat-pad or a wheat bag, both of which are available from your local pharmacy.

You should continue to take regular doses of paracetamol to control the pain but it also might be worth trying ibuprofen or to alternate between the two. Ibuprofen has anti-inflammatory properties which will help to reduce any inflammation in the neck area.

Bad posture can aggravate neck pain so check that you are sitting and standing straight and tall. How you sleep is important as well. Sleep either on your back or on your side and use a low, firm pillow. Sleeping on more than one pillow tends to force the neck to bend unnaturally.

If your symptoms don’t improve after a few days and you can’t control the pain with normal painkillers, then you may need to see your GP. Your GP can then examine your neck just to rule out any underlying damage.

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