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I pulled a muscle in my neck and upperback. What is the best way to heal and relieve the pain?

The advice on the web is not clear. Some people say apply heat, some say cold, and some say alternate both. Also, are products like bengay efficient for relieving the pain? Are there other analgesics that can help with the pain of pulling a muscle?

To clarify, think my pain comes from having carried heavy bags for too long for too many days. It just started hurting yesterday, but I am not sure what specific movement I made.

My neck and upperback hurt whenever I move my head (up, down,left or right).

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    How did you pull it and with what movement does it hurt?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 6:38
  • Thanks @Ivo, I updated the question to answer your question. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 15:05

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Generally speaking, minor pulls and sprains tend to respond very well to RICE protocol

  • Rest - Give the affected muscle time off to heal
  • Ice - Reduces swelling and discomfort
  • Compression - This may be difficult depending on exactly which muscle you pulled, but placing a constant pressure on it may also reduce swelling as well as providing much needed support to the injured muscle.
  • Elevation - On the other hand, this should be fairly easy. By keeping the injured area elevated, it also encourages the swelling to go down.

If you need an OTC painkiller, any NSAID will help with both pain and swelling. I tend to use Advil when I'm more concerned about pain relief and Aleve when I'm more concerned about swelling, but they're basically interchangeable.

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  • Thanks for the advice @J.T. Hurley. Do you know if Ibuprophen would work the same as Advil to relieve pain? Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 18:42
  • @AmV: Sure. In fact, Advil is pretty much just name-brand ibuprofen to begin with. Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 4:35
  • Also, you shouldn't ice more than eg. 15 mins in an hour (so 1:4). You could also consider ice massage for a shorter time period - it's supposed to be more effective.
    – VPeric
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 14:04

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