Acute vs. Chronic Neck Pain: How To Beat Both

Acute vs. Chronic Neck Pain: How To Beat Both

Pain when you rise in the morning. Stiffness and discomfort whenever you turn your head in the slightest. A searing referral of pain down your spine with the wrong movement. If you’re in a losing battle with neck pain, we know just how uncomfortable and interfering it can be in day-to-day life. When lingering irritation in something as central as your neck settles into your body, it’s difficult for it to not permeate into your daily activities, perhaps even making you alter or cancel some items that you’ve previously really enjoyed. Far from ideal.

Within the parameters of neck pain, there lie two main camps: acute and chronic scenarios. Both are less than comfortable. And neither should have a place in your daily life.  What are the differences and what are your best options for a full, (and all-natural) recovery?

Acute vs. Chronic Neck Pain: What Are The Differences?

Plain and simple: physical pain shouldn’t be an accepted part of life, and most neck pain is completely treatable with conservative care. However, in order to get the best and most effective care possible, it’s necessary to identify the origin of your pain. Only then can you truly seek out the correct treatment to make real headway toward relief. 

Acute Neck Pain

Acute pain is characterized by a sudden onset, normally in response to some kind of accident or noticeable injury. It is usually sharper in sensation but doesn’t stick around for more than several months. Acute pain can happen after a sudden impact from a car accident, horseback riding, falling, or a collision in contact sports. It can also happen from something as simple as sleeping in the wrong position and awakening with an obnoxious crick in your neck. 

With proper treatment, acute pain generally subsides after a couple of months. However, when left untreated, it does run the risk of becoming more chronic in nature. 

Chronic Neck Pain

Chronic pain can be a bit more tricky, as it comes on slowly over time. What may begin as a slight annoyance one morning can turn into constant aching pain over months…and the longer it lingers, the more difficult it can be to put behind you. Chronic neck pain can arise from something as simple as the results of poor posture over time, but can also signal something more significant, like disc degeneration or herniation. 

The Best Neck Pain Treatments For Long-Term Success

To get the most out of a rehabilitation program, it’s best to work with a medical professional. We’ll say that again, for emphasis: seek help from a medical professional to enable the best recovery process possible. Because there are varying causes and potential other diagnoses that can contribute to neck pain, working with a professional is the only way to ensure that you are getting the proper care for your specific scenario. That said, these treatment options below have been shown to provide relief for both acute and chronic cases of neck pain. 


While it may not sound like the most sophisticated response, sometimes your body just needs a little extra space to repair itself. If there are certain activities that seem to aggravate your pain more than others, try to take a step back from these for a bit. The short break could work wonders for your body.

However, it’s important to note that this approach is possibly the most relevant for acute neck pain, directly following an accident or sudden injury. 

Don’t Become a Couch Potato

While rest is good, you don’t want to overdo it, as becoming a complete couch potato won’t help you, either! While you do want to give your neck some rest, completely immobilizing the area can actually make matters worse in the long run. Gentle mobility exercises incorporated throughout the day can be extremely beneficial in retaining healthy movement, without aggravating the issue. You can start with some slow and controlled side-to-side and forward-and-back head motions to keep your neck from stiffening up too much. 

Hot And Cold Therapy

Try alternating between applying heat and ice to your neck as a gentle, at-home treatment as well. The heat will help get blood flowing, drawing some of the necessary healing nutrients to your injured area. It can also help to ease muscle tension. On the other hand, ice application can help to decrease inflammation in the neck– often a key aggravator in neck pain. 

When alternating between hot and cold temperatures, only apply each in 15-20 minute increments, and give your skin a break for at least several hours before trying this therapy again. 

Alternate Treatments

Some have also felt significant relief from other modalities, namely massage and rehabilitative exercise programs. Massage can help to alleviate tight muscles surrounding the shoulders and neck that could be contributing to added stiffness and discomfort. On the other hand, the right rehabilitative exercises can help to safely create mobility and movement in your neck without aggravating your symptoms. Be sure to work with a medical professional to ensure that you’re following a program that’s appropriate for your specific needs. 

How Chiropractic Can Help Alleviate Neck Pain

Because our bodies are so interconnected, imbalances and misalignments in one area can often manifest as pain and discomfort in others. When it comes to our neck, misalignments of the spine – that often happen simply as a result of daily life – can create pressure and tension in the neck that creates ongoing discomfort in both acute and chronic cases of neck pain. Chiropractic care is a great way to address the root of this problem: misalignments in the spine. Through the use of gentle adjustments, this conservative treatment option helps to alleviate some of the pressure and irritation that causes referred pain in the neck.  

When combined with an ongoing rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs, consistent chiropractic care can help give your body more support and speed your recovery process. Additionally, your chiropractor can help ensure that there aren’t any missed diagnoses causing your neck pain. Your practitioner will develop a personalized treatment plan just for you, ensuring that you receive the best care to treat the cause of your pain.

Rid yourself of neck pain for good. Get healthy now. Schedule an appointment online or call (714) 777-3200. 

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.