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Neck Pain: How to Care for Your Child
Neck pain can happen for many different reasons, and it can come on slowly or suddenly. Most cases of neck pain are not serious and go away with rest and basic home care.
- Your child should not participate in contact sports or carry a backpack until the health care provider says it's OK.
- If your child is uncomfortable, you can give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand) OR ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or a store brand), if recommended by your health care provider.
- Some types of neck pain feel better with cold packs, some with warm packs.
- To help with pain: Place a cold pack wrapped in a towel on the area for 15–20 minutes a few times a day. Place a towel or cloth between the cold pack and the skin.
- To help with stiffness and pain: Place a warm pack wrapped in a towel on the neck for no longer than 20 minutes (being careful not to burn the skin) or have your child take a warm bath or shower.
- Your health care provider may recommend specific stretches or exercises, or refer your child to a physical therapist.
- If the health care provider suggested a soft cervical collar, your child should wear it only for the time recommended. Wearing it for longer periods can weaken the neck muscles and cause other problems.
- Schedule follow-up appointments as directed by your health care provider.
- To help prevent neck pain:
- Try a different pillow to help with neck strain.
- Make smart backpack choices. Be sure your child does not carry more than 10% to 20% of his or her body weight in the pack. The backpack also should have a padded back and two wide shoulder straps. Your child should always wear it with both straps.
- Encourage your child to sit up straight when using a computer or sitting at a desk and take breaks about every half hour.
Call Your Healthcare Provider if...
- has pain that gets worse
- has no improvement in neck pain after a few days
- has new symptoms, such as a fever, headache, sore throat, drooling, or vision problems
- has trouble swallowing, eating, or drinking
- seems ill or isn't acting like himself or herself
Go to the ER if...
- has severe pain
- has weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs
- has urine (pee) or stool (poop) accidents
- cannot move the neck in one or more directions
- has a severe headache
More to Know
What causes neck pain?
A strained or irritated muscle or ligament in the neck—from things such as poor posture, carrying a heavy backpack or book bag, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or an injury—can lead to neck pain. Sometimes, an infection or inflammation causes neck pain.