A neck sprain is the result of a tear to a ligament or muscle in the neck. Muscles and ligaments can be torn when they are exerted beyond their normal range of motion, and these tears often occur as a result of sudden movements. Although the most common causes of neck sprain are car accidents and sports injuries, they can be caused by any sudden movements that exert sufficient force to twist the muscles of the neck beyond their normal range of motion.
Neck sprains can be identified by some common symptoms listed below:
- Pain in the back or sides of the neck which becomes worse with movement.
- Headache in the back of the head.
- Sore and achy shoulders often accompanied by muscle spasms.
- Pain and muscle spasms in the upper back.
- Discomfort, irritability, trouble sleeping, and possibly even a sore throat.
- Numbness in arm or hand often accompanied by weakness and/or a tingling sensation.
The symptoms may not be detected for as much as 24 to 48 hours after an injury occurs. However, when the symptoms are detected, it is a good idea to go consult a physician for an evaluation. A qualified physician can quickly diagnose a neck sprain by performing a comprehensive physical examination. In this examination, they will try to determine the cause of injury as well as assess the range of motion in your neck and feel for any tender spots.
In some cases, a neck sprain may be a symptom of other underlying medical conditions. Your physician may recommend x-rays to determine whether or not the neck sprain is actually a symptom of a larger problem.
Like all sprains, a neck sprain can be treated with the “RICE Therapy” method, which includes: rest, ice, compression and elevation. They heal gradually, and you may have to wear a soft collar to help support your neck and relieve your shoulders of pressure while your muscles and ligaments heal.
Muscle relaxants as well as anti inflammatory medication can help to ease the pain and reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. Neck sprains can be treated with activities like massages, aerobics, and isometric exercises. Many of these strains can be rehabilitated in 4 to 6 weeks, while severe cases will require more time for full recovery.
Don’t be alarmed if your doctor diagnoses you with a neck sprain; like most sprains, they do not typically cause irreparable damage.