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What is a Neck Sprain?

By Brandon May
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A neck sprain is a common injury in sports, as well as in accidents that involve the collision of motor vehicles or a sudden fall. A ligament is usually stretched beyond its normal limits in a neck sprain, and sometimes the ligament can be torn, resulting in a more severe type of strain. Neck sprains are treatable through relaxation and activities devoid of sudden movement or jerking of the neck muscles. Anti-inflammatories and massaging are also included in treating a neck sprain to help release the pain associated with the torn ligament and tissues.

When a neck sprain occurs, a ligament in the neck is stretched or torn, creating inflammation in the neck muscles and tissues which results in pain and swelling. Many times a neck sprain is the result of whiplash during an injury involving collision with another person or vehicle. Neck sprains are also tied to sudden falls, but this does not often result in the torn tissues a whiplash reaction would produce. The neck can become stiff and immovable as a result of the injury due to the pain it produces, and perhaps due to the temporary loss of function in the torn or stretched neck ligaments.

Symptoms of a neck sprain are fairly obvious, however, there are some symptoms which do not fall under the typical category of neck injuries. Common symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck, as well as muscle spasms and numbness in the areas of the neck and upper shoulders. Uncommon symptoms of a neck sprain might be headaches in the back of the head, a sore throat and difficulty concentrating on simple tasks. Going to a doctor is advised at the first sign of any undesired change in the body following an injury to the neck or vertebral areas.

Neck sprains are typically treated with plenty of rest to aid in the recovery of the ligaments and the healing of the tissues in the neck muscles. Hot and cold packs may also be used to bring down the swelling of the neck muscles, and anti-inflammatory medicines and foods may be prescribed to decrease swelling and pain. Gentle massaging by a trained physical therapist or other neck stretching exercises may also be used to decrease pain and aid in the recovery process. The symptoms of a common neck sprain may be relieved within four to six weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.

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