While neck and shoulder pain can occur due to traumatic injuries or bone degeneration, muscle strain represents the main cause. The Cleveland Clinic notes that these soft-tissue injuries can happen all at once or can come on gradually, such as when they are caused by habitually poor posture. Home treatment for shoulder and neck pain relief may be a patient's most pressing need, but protecting the neck and shoulders from further harm will help clear up the problem in the shortest time frame.
Getting rid of the cause of shoulder and neck pain marks the first step toward healing. Home treatment should begin with rest, a break in an exercise routine and an attempt to address the source of upper-body pain. The American Chiropractic Association reports that replacing inappropriate and old pillows and mattresses can ease neck and shoulder pain.
The Mayo Clinic adds that personal posture may also be a source of problems in the cervical area. Teeth grinding, improper workstation posture and habits such as using the neck and shoulder to hold a telephone can all create muscle strain and pain. Taking steps to break these cycles, such as positioning computer monitors at eye level and using ergonomic furniture, will relieve physical stress.
Home treatment to reduce inflammation eases pain symptoms. For short-term shoulder and neck pain relief, the Cleveland Clinic recommends nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, along with acetaminophen. These medications can be used periodically for chronic pain, but may result in long-term side effects.
The Cleveland Clinic considers moist heat and cold compresses safe for either short- or long-term conditions of neck and shoulder pain. Heat applications can come from a hot shower, a hot-water bottle or a reusable heated gel pack. Cold packs can be made with ice, a bag of frozen peas or a chilled gel pack. Patients should alternate 20 minutes of heat with 20 minutes of cold, ending with cold therapy to discourage inflammation.
Immobilizing the neck for long periods of time will make painful muscular conditions worse. Home treatment to restore muscle strength and flexibility should begin as soon as the initial acute neck and shoulder pain and inflammation have passed, usually within 48 hours of onset.
The Mayo Clinic advises gently stretching the neck and rotating the shoulders as far as shoulder and neck pain will comfortably allow. Holding a stretch for 30 seconds encourages muscles to build rather than lose strength, and stretching in all directions will hasten the return of full range of motion.