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What Are the Different Medications for a Stiff Neck?

By Valerie Goldberg
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A stiff neck is a condition in which a person's attempts to move his or her neck cause pain that prevents having a full range of motion in the neck. Neck issues of this type can occur as the result of an accident or as a response to another medical condition. A person with a stiff neck may not be able to turn his or her neck fully and may have to twist his or her whole body instead when looking at something. There are many prescription and non-prescription medications for a stiff neck. Treatments can include ibuprofen, hot or cold packs and prescription drugs.

Over-the-counter pain medications for a stiff neck include ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These medications for a stiff neck should help with the pain if the neck problem is being caused by exercise or another everyday activity. Pain sufferers should take the medication as directed on the bottle and should not exceed the recommended dose. If the medication is not helping, the person with the stiff neck should make an appointment to see a doctor.

Another popular treatment for a stiff neck is the use of heat or ice. Ice can be used during the first day or two of the pain treatment to help reduce swelling. After ice therapy, heat can be used to relax the neck. Taking a hot shower is another way a person with a stiff neck can find relief. Pain suffers also can use a heating pad applied directly to the neck.

Prescription medications for a stiff neck may be prescribed when the stiff neck is a result of a serious accident, such as a car crash. A person who is experiencing a stiff neck right after an accident should go to the hospital to be examined. A doctor may want to prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or a few days worth of narcotic pain killers.

Serious infections, such as meningitis, also can cause a stiff neck. Antibiotic medications for a stiff neck caused by meningitis are vital. Left untreated, meningitis can cause brain damage or even lead to death.

Chronic, but not fatal conditions such as fibromyalgia also can cause neck pain. Fibromyalgia can cause stiffness and shooting pains in many places throughout the body, including the neck. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to fibromyalgia patients, who may benefit from the drugs' pain-blocking qualities. Muscle relaxers and narcotic medications also may be prescribed in moderation to chronic neck pain sufferers to help them find relief.

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Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On May 17, 2013

I've used various over-the-counter treatments for my chronic stiff neck. The one that works best is a topical analgesic cream with menthol in it.

I just rub this all over my neck and let it absorb. It creates a cooling and then a heating sensation which really relaxes my neck muscles. Menthol relieves pain too.

If my neck is in very bad condition, I have my daughter do a little massage on my neck with this cream and it works wonders.

By literally45 — On May 16, 2013

@ddljohn-- That's very interesting. I never knew that high blood pressure can cause a stiff neck. Thanks for sharing that.

By ddljohn — On May 16, 2013

Sometimes there are underlying conditions that cause stiff neck. If medications are required to treat the underlying condition, this can provide relief from stiff neck as well.

I have high blood pressure and when my blood pressure rises above normal, my neck becomes stiff. This was actually the main reason I went to see a doctor and it turned out that I have high BP.

Whenever I get a stiff neck now, I check my blood pressure. It almost always turns out to be high and I take extra medication that day. When my blood pressure is back to normal, the stiffness slowly goes away.

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