How to Get a Crick Out of Your Neck

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A crick in your neck can vary in severity from mild stiffness to severe, sharp pain. Home treatment usually works well for mild, one-time cricks, but severe cricks in the neck or chronic neck pain may need to be treated professionally. Here are a few common methods to use when trying to get a crick out of your neck.


EditTreating Your Neck at Home

  1. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever. Possible options include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.[1]
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    • Anti-inflammatory medications like these reduce the swelling and ultimately relieve the pain.
    • Before taking an over-the-counter medication, make sure that you are not on any prescription medications that could interact negatively with the drug. Moreover, you should also make sure that you do not have any medical conditions that prevent you from taking one or all of these drugs. For instance, someone with an ulcer should avoid taking aspirin.
    • Note that over-the-counter medications only provide temporary relief. Do not let the immediate lack of pain lull you into a false sense of security, since you can still worsen the strain by overworking it.
  2. Apply cold and warm packs. Both cold and warmth can help with a crick in the neck, but for best results, you should consider alternating them.
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    • Begin by applying an ice pack for 7 to 20 minutes. The cold reduces inflammation, and it must be applied first. A bag of frozen vegetables or ice wrapped in a towel will work, too, but you should never apply ice directly to the skin.
    • Take a warm shower, use a hot water bottle, or use a heating pad, set to low, on the back of your neck. Apply heat in 10- to 15-minute segments or less.[2] Heat soothes sore muscles, but it can make inflammation worse if applied too often.
    • Give your neck a break from both. You can alternate between cold and warmth throughout the day as necessary, but you should give the muscles in your neck 30 minutes or more in between treatments so that your neck has a chance to stabilize itself.
  3. Rest your neck. Lie down on your back several times throughout the day so that your neck has a break from the strain of holding your head up.
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    • Do not lie on your stomach, since you will need to twist your neck when you do so. Your neck should be straight as you lie down.
    • If the crick is not severe enough to warrant lying down, you should still reduce your activity for a few days. Do not do any heavy lifting or twisting for the first 2 or 3 weeks at minimum. Avoid jogging, football, golf, ballet, weightlifting, or other strenuous exercise.[3]
    • Do not rest too much, however. If you do nothing but lie around all day, the muscles in your neck will become weak. As a result, when you are forced to resume your usual activities, you are more likely to hurt your neck again. Alternate periods of rest with periods of non-strenuous activity during the day.
  4. Keep your neck supported. Wear a scarf or turtle-neck sweater to provide gentle support throughout the day. Alternatively, you could also position a neck pillow behind your head as you work.
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    • Usually, stiff support is not necessary. If you are unaccustomed to it, stiff support may actually aggravate the problem or cause you to experience pain in other areas of your body, like your back. Soft support is often sufficient.
  5. Gently stretch your neck. Slowly move your neck from side to side, holding it in place for 30 seconds with each rotation.
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    • Focus on stretching your neck to the side and to the front, but avoid bending it too far back, since this often aggravates a crick in the neck.
    • Only stretch as far as the pain will allow. Do not try to “push” your way past the pain and do not perform these exercises too quickly.
  6. Carefully massage your neck. Use your fingers to gently rub the back of your neck, near the crick, for up to 3 minutes.
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    • Do not apply firm pressure and stop immediately if mild pressure makes your neck hurt more.
    • If you are unable to bend your arms back due to the pain, ask a friend or family member to gently rub the area for you.
  7. Mind your posture. Your neck should be fairly straight as you sit and lie down, but do not hold your neck stiffly in an effort to maintain the position.
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    • This treatment is more long-term than short-term, since good posture is essential to preventing neck cricks from coming back.
    • Lie down on your back or side as you sleep. Do not sleep on your stomach, since doing so twists your neck in awkward positions. Make sure that your pillows are not so high that they cause you to bend your neck, but also make sure that they are not so low that they offer no support.
    • Avoid sitting too long with your head bent down or leaning forward. Take breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around.

EditSeeking Medical Treatment

  1. Get chiropractic treatments. A doctor who specializes in chiropractic techniques can apply gentle force to a joint in an effort to work it back into place after being thrown out.
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    • Chiropractic treatment to the neck is a safe and effective way to remove the cause of the crick in the neck, and can also be used to fix the cause of a pinched nerve. [4]
    • Most chiropractors also incorporate physical therapy and massage into their practice.
  2. Ask your doctor for a prescription pain medication. If the pain does not respond to over-the-counter medication after several days, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or tricyclic antidepressant.
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    • Muscle relaxants reduce the strain and discomfort caused by overworked neck muscles.
    • Some antidepressants increase neurotransmitters in the spinal cord, thereby reducing pain signals sent to the brain.[5]
  3. Go to physical therapy. Physician-prescribed neck exercises and traction can provide immediate relief while strengthening the muscles, helping to prevent future cricks in the neck.
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    • A physical therapist can lead you in performing specific neck exercises and stretches that can aid in your long-term recovery. The therapist will likely ask that you perform the treatments at his or her office initially, but most of these can eventually be done at home.
    • Traction is a specific type of therapy that relies on a system of weights and pulleys to stretch your neck out. It is always done under professional supervision, and it works best when the crick is linked to nerve root irritation.[6]
  4. Request a medical neck collar. These collars provide stiff support for your neck and help to relieve pain by reducing the amount of pressure on your neck muscles.
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    • You should wear such a collar for no longer than two weeks, though, since wearing it past this time can actually cause the muscles in your neck to weaken.
  5. Inquire about steroid injections. The doctor injects corticosteroid at the nerve root and into the joints or muscles of your neck.
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    • This is an especially helpful treatment for cricks in the neck caused by arthritis.
    • Similarly, the doctor may inject a numbing medication like lidocaine into the neck.
  6. Find out if surgery is an option. Surgery is usually involved in severe cases where the nerve roots or spinal cord are the cause of the problem.[7]
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    • Most cricks in the neck are not caused by such serious matters, however, so surgical treatments are not often used.
  7. Go to an acupuncture practitioner. A certified practitioner inserts sterile needles into pressure points along the body to relieve pain.
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    • Studies are mixed about the effectiveness of this treatment for cricks in the neck, but the therapy may be worth looking into if you experience such cricks chronically.
  8. Have a professional massage. When performed by a trained practitioner, a massage can provide long-term pain relief.
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    • A professional massage is worth looking into if the crick in your neck feels mildly better when you rub it gently.
  9. Learn about TENS. With transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), electrodes are placed near the skin and a small electrical pulse is sent through the electrodes to relieve pain in that area.[8]
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    • There is emerging clinical evidence to show that TENS can be helpful–with the correct frequency and intensity–to a variety of pain conditions.[9]
    • Though personal TENS units are available for purchase, it’s recommended that for most effective results, you receive treatment from a doctor.[10]


  • Seek medical help immediately if the crick in your neck prevents you from touching your chin to your chest. Stiffness this severe can be a sign of meningitis.
  • Contact your doctor if your symptoms do not respond to home treatment within one week, if the crick was caused by an injury, if the pain prevents you from sleeping or swallowing, or if it is accompanied by numbness or weakness in your arms.

EditThings You’ll Need

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever
  • Cold and warm packs
  • Scarf, turtle-neck sweater, or neck pillow
  • Prescription pain medication or injections (optional)

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Get Rid of a Sore Neck
  • Get Rid of a Nerve Pinch in Your Neck Quickly
  • Treat a Pinched Nerve
  • Tighten Loose Neck Skin

EditSources and Citations

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