I'll PM Molly to jump in here too if she doesn't see the thread, I've found a lot of her advice helpful too regarding the neck.
When mine first started in 1998, these are the things I did then:
1. ice and lots of it. some heat.
2. manual PT. manual traction was probably the most useful thing of all the treatments. I still LOVE manual traction.
3. strengthening exercises. Swimming really helped my neck back then.
4. sleeping on my back with a thin thin feather pillow.
5. only sit in certain chairs and car seats. over the years that has narrowed more and more.
Fast forward to the last few years.
1. Still ice is my first go to treatment. Its interesting that icing my back can help my neck and icing my neck can help my back.....the chiro thinks there's two way traffic on the nerves to explain this.
2. I do go to a chiro. I know a lot of people are apprehensive but I was desperate, almost on disability, the year before had gotten no help from my physiatrists or PTs and so I went. He's been my savior. He's treated the muscles in my upper back and when the ribs get stuck under the shoulder blade and my neck. For my neck, its mostly manual traction; no adjustments though, as Molly posted recently, that can cause a stroke, for one thing.
3. This: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Ease-Neck-and...words=neck+ease
It looks like such a silly trivial little thing, but really it must put my neck in complete neutral. When my neck flares badly, I lay on it. I also will lay on it sometimes if I want to nap on my yoga matt on the floor.
4. I now sleep in the recliner, all the time. Even laying flat on my back with a feather pillow was bothering it. I wonder if I could lay on my side, for my neck, but its a moot point since that flares my SI. I have a foam pillow and a feather pillow for lumbar support and my recliner if very comfy.
5. My interventionalist has done cortisone injections into the facet joints. He started at I think C4-C5 and C5-C6 where the bone spurs were. But then I went in complaining of neck pain high up, thinking I needed trigger point injections into my occipital muscle, at its base. He said, 'that's not muscular, thats' spine". He then pulled out the skeleton model to show me where he'd inject if I was OK with it because it was near the brain stem and arteries. I'm either brave or naive because I said, "if you feel comfortable doing it and have lots of experience doing it, let's go for it!" and so he injected C2-C3 and C3-C4....that was months ago and my neck has been so so much better since. No face numbness, no neck pain, less upper back muscle spasms. I still see the chiro, as there's always something, currently the SI to deal with, but really those higher up shots seem to have really helped. I had to be very still so he got exactly where he needed to get. I wouldn't trust anyone but the best that high up, but it made a lot of difference. I still can't sit where I can't sit, but so long as I don't do that, I'm better.
6. I only sit on flat chairs. "Bucket seats" are evil! anything that curves at the sides evil. High stools evil. Flat short chairs, flat short stools, the floor (though its hard to get off the floor!), steps are all good options for me and my neck. steps are probably the best.
7. Sometimes I use the NSAID KIP gel that the compounding pharmacist makes up for me (Ketoprofen, Ibuprofen, Piroxicam).
8. Sometimes I put the blue icy gel on my neck. CVS brand is just as good as the name brands.
9. Ultrasound, but not over the bones. I have a home unit and my husband does it along the side of my neck and in the back a little but not over the bones. traps. upper back. If you want to get a home ultrasound unit, this is the one I have:http://www.ultrasoundcure.com
I have the higher priced one; more options that made it more like the one at the PT office.
10. When it does flare and the muscle spasm and thus get weak, I have to strengthen the muscles. I can't swim anymore, bothers my SI, so instead, this is what I do: I lay on the bed with my head over the edge and lift it up 10 times, turn 90 degrees, repeat, etc, so I'm lifting it against gravity in all 4 directions.
Of course we all have different problems, but mine seems to be bone spurs pressing on nerves and so these things seem to help me.
I still dream of a surgery that can fix me so I can sit in any chair, any car seat, etc and have no neck pain, back pain, or face numbness.
But I'm functioning and mostly pain free in my neck so am thankful for now.