Hello and thanks for researching this very important question!
I am so sorry that you are having this difficult and distressing experience with your Friend.
Cervical neck symptoms in dogs are every bit as awful as lower back problems are in people...a dog's neck bones and back muscles work very hard to hold the head up all day. It can take quite a long time for a pet to feel back-to-normal. A month at the minimum is not out of the question.
Each pet is an individual, but even a "simple" strain or nerve pinch can lead to an extreme experience of pain. Affected dogs prefer to not move, hold the head forward or slightly down, and are distressed when they anticipate pain...ie, they tense up even before anyone touches them or picks them up.
Morning is often worse, especially for those pets that don't move a lot overnight during sleep, or sleep on drafty flooring, or are overweight. Making sure that he has a most comfortable surface to lie on in a room that is not too cool may help, but let him rise at his own pace and limber up slowly. Moving about should be confined to Necessity only--get food, water, go outside.
Tramadol is a very strong medicine, and it does not always agree with all pets.
Pain that worsens can indicate that something More Serious than a strain is going on: Lyme Disease, or an infection in the spinal cord, to name a few. If this discomfort seems to not improve or gets any worse, a re-check appointment and some tests are in order.
Some areas have Veterinary Chiropractic or Acupuncture services available, your vet's office would know about this and can give you a referral. Older dogs have a very good response to this type of treatment.
In the meantime, do continue allowing him to rest as much as he likes...limit all activity that is not necessary, even when he starts to feel better, to prevent re-injury or exacerbated injury. These patients often have relapses periodically throughout their lifetimes, unfortunately, so you will always want to be somewhat careful of ambiguous situations (boisterous children or other pets), moving furniture, stairways, and early signs of discomfort.
You might try putting a Very Stable ramp at any stairs for him.
***If you need to pick him up, scoop him with the whole arm between the front legs...so he is lying on your forearm...and then let him "sit" on the other hand or forearm so that his back is a straight as possible and he can lean his shoulder against you if needed. Don't rush...let him settle as much as he can before lifting so that he gets the idea that you are trying hard to not jostle him. This can help him release his muscles instead of clenching them.***
Medical approaches to pain are pretty varied...here is just one example of the different approaches different vets take, depending on their experience and background:
His diabetic diet can be melted in water and then liquified in a blender to make it easier to lap and swallow to get some calories and stomach buffer into him if he seems to be having trouble chewing his regular food. Raising his dishes up so that he can approach them straight-on (without bending his neck down) can help him get water and nutrients more easily.
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