A neck sprain can occur if the neck is bent to an extreme position. The neck is comprised of seven bones of the spinal column that are connected to each other by muscles and ligaments.
Symptoms of a neck sprain
An individual who is suffering from a neck sprain can experience a variety of possible symptoms.
- Pain in the back part of the neck that is aggravated by movement
- Pain that increases after the injury
- Sore throat
- Muscle spasms accompanied with pain in the upper shoulder
- Headache in the back part of the head
- Numbness in the hand or arm
- Increased fatigue, irritability and problems with concentrating and sleeping
- Weakness and tingling sensation in the arms
- Stiffness of the neck and limited range of motion
How neck sprain is diagnosed
When diagnosing a neck sprain, the doctor will carry out a physical examination. During the physical examination, your doctor will ask how the injury occurred. The range of motion of the neck will be measured as well as check if tenderness is present. An X-ray will be performed to determine other sources of pain or rule out other injuries.
Treatment for neck sprain
Regardless of the location of the sprain, the condition is treated in the same way. A neck sprain can heal steadily over time as long as appropriate treatment is provided. In most cases, a soft collar must be used around the neck to provide support to the head as well as relieve pressure on the ligaments so that they can heal.
As a first aid measure, you can administer over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin to help minimize the pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants can be given to help provide relief to the spasms. You can apply ice for 15-30 minutes at a time for several times a day. In doing so, it can help minimize the discomfort and inflammation. Even though moist heat can help muscles that are cramped, it must not be applied right away.
There are also other treatment options available such as massaging the area that is tender, ultrasound, cervical traction as well as aerobic and isometric exercise.
How to prevent neck sprain
If you want to prevent your risk for developing neck sprain, there are certain considerations to bear in mind.
- When driving, you have to be careful to avoid any accidents and always wear seat belts if you are the driver or passenger.
- If you engage in contact sports, it is important to wear appropriate protective gear and equipment to minimize your risk for injuries.
- Perform exercises that can help strengthen the neck muscles.
Always bear in mind that majority of the symptoms of neck sprain typically go away in a span of 4-6 weeks. Nevertheless, for severe cases, it will take a long time to fully heal.