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Neck Sprain

Neck Sprain

What Is a Neck Sprain?

The seven bones of the neck's spinal column (cervical vertebrae) are held together by ligaments and muscles—strong bands of tissue that act like thick rubber bands. When a person's neck bends to an extreme position in response to a quick movement, such as a motor vehicle accident or a hard fall, one or more of these soft tissues can be stretched (sprained) or torn.

Signs and Symptoms of Neck Sprain

Neck sprains can affect a person's ability to move, communicate, and see. A person with a neck sprain may experience numerous symptoms, including:

  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Pain that peaks 1-2 days after the injury (rather than immediately)
  • Muscle spasms and pain in the upper shoulder
  • Headache toward the back of the head
  • Fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating
  • Numbness in the hands or arms
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Decreased range of motion (difficulty making side to side, up and down, circular movements)
  • Weakness in the arms or a tingling sensation

Signs That Neck Pain Is More Severe than Neck Sprain

Some symptoms might suggest a more significant neck injury. Seek medical help right away if you are experiencing neck discomfort, and it is:

  • Consistent and persistent
  • Severe
  • Accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms and legs
  • Accompanied by a headache and numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms and legs

Diagnosing Neck Sprain Injury

Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination to diagnose a neck strain. They will inquire as to how the problem occurred, assess your neck's range of motion, and look for any point tenderness during the exam. They may also order additional imaging like x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI to help rule out other, more serious causes for neck pain (like spinal fracture, dislocation, or arthritis).

Treatment Options for Neck Sprain

The treatment for all sprains and strains is very similar regardless of where they are in the body. Like other types of sprains, neck sprains usually mend over time with patience and appropriate therapy. To aid in healing your ligaments, you may need to wear a soft collar around your neck.

Muscle relaxants, such as bromocriptine or diazepam, can help with spasms. Aspirin and ibuprofen can both provide pain relief and reduce swelling. Muscle relaxants can assist with spasms. For the first 2 or 3 days after the accident, apply an ice pack for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Heat, in general, can assist with pain and discomfort by reducing inflammation. Although heat may help loosen tight muscles, it should not be applied too quickly.

Your doctor will determine whether you should receive any treatment for your injury. As it begins to heal, other therapies might be beneficial. These treatments should not be used without consulting your doctor. The following are some of the treatments you can use:

  • Gently massaging the tender area
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Cervical (neck) traction
  • Aerobic and isometric exercise

The majority of neck sprains heal in 4 to 6 weeks. However, significant injuries might take longer to heal completely.

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