Nonsurgical Treatment of Cervical Spine Problems

Cervical spine problems can often be treated without surgery. Choices include rest, medicines, or injections. Your healthcare provider may also suggest physical therapy or certain exercises. These may all help to relieve your symptoms. These treatments are often successful. But if your symptoms don’t subside, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she may tell you that surgery is your best choice.

Relieving your symptoms

Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Medicines. These help to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Epidural steroid injections. These are injections into the spinal canal near the spinal cord. They may relieve severe pain and reduce inflammation.

  • Restricting aggravating activities. This can help to give your cervical spine time to heal.

  • A soft cervical collar. This can help to support your head while keeping your cervical spine aligned.

  • Traction. This may help relieve pressure on the irritated nerves.

Restoring mobility and strength

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you work with a physical therapist. This can help you regain mobility and strength in your neck. Physical therapy may last for 4 to 8 weeks. It may include:

  • Exercises to improve your neck’s range of motion and strength.

  • Evaluation and correction of posture and body movements. This can correct problems that affect your cervical spine.

  • Heat, massage, and traction to help relieve your symptoms.


You’ll take an active role in your own therapy. To protect your neck from further injury:

  • Follow any exercise program given to you by your healthcare provider or physical therapist.

  • Practice good posture while sitting, standing, or moving.

  • Have your workspace evaluated. Rearrange it if needed.

  • When lying down, support your neck. You can use a special cervical pillow or rolled-up towel.


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