New Recommendations for Dealing with Minor Neck Injuries

Minor injuries are an unfortunate part of life: They happen to everybody. In contrast to the types of traumas that send us to the doctor, these are the types of injuries that we tend to wait out and treat on our own. Those home remedies have evolved over the years with improvements to medications and better understanding of treatment effectiveness, and as a result the American College of Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians has issued new recommendations for how people should approach them.

Though these recommendations explicitly do not apply to people who have suffered low back injuries, they do include neck injuries. If you are suffering from a neck injury that you’ve sustained in the last few weeks, these recommendations, which considered physical function, quality of life, patient satisfaction, side effects and return to work, may be of help to you. They may be used either with or without following RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation — which have become standard home treatments and are a smart first step.

The new recommendations are provided below, in the order that the ACP and AAFP suggest:

  • Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are applied to the skin over the area that is causing pain. These are available both in over-the-counter form and by prescription and are considered very safe. Less of the medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream, and therefore they are better tolerated by those who have sensitive stomachs or who for some other reason cannot take oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including people who have been diagnosed with significant cardiovascular disease.
  • Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen. These might include generic or brand-name versions of ibuprofen or naproxen, both in over-the-counter forms and by prescription.
  • Acupressure or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapies. Though these have been proven effective, they are less effective than the two therapies listed above. TENS therapy is both non-invasive and drug free, and is administered by placing electrode pads near the area from which the pain is emanating. The device sends electric pulses through the pads and those pulses travel through the skin and along the nerve fibers to suppress pain signals being sent to the brain.

Notably the two societies do not recommend opiate use, finding that the benefits that they provide are not sufficient to warrant the risk of addiction that they carry. They also pointed out that the pain relief provided is only modestly effective, and that is one of the reasons that they are only being offered as treatment for minor injuries. For lower back pain or a significant neck injury or pain, their advice is that you seek treatment from a physician such as our New Jersey spine specialist.

When neck pain or back pain are impacting your quality of life or your ability to carry out your daily functions, it is time to see a doctor. Contact our New Jersey spine specialist today to set up a time to come in for a consultation.

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