The seven bones in the spinal column in the neck are connected to one another by ligaments and muscles. When a neck sprain or tear occurs, it can involve one or more of these soft tissues due to abrupt movement such as vehicular collision or hard fall. In such scenarios, the neck is forced to bend in an extreme position.
What are the symptoms?
An individual with a neck sprain can experience a wide range of symptoms which includes the following:
- Pain particularly in the back part of the neck that is aggravated by movement.
- Pain that intensifies 1-2 days after the injury was sustained.
- Headache that is centered in the back part of the head.
- Muscle spasms and pain in the upper shoulder.
- Sore throat
- Numbness in the hand or arm
- Increased fatigue, irritability along with difficult sleeping or concentrating.
- Tingling or weakness in the arms
- Stiffness of the neck or diminished range of motion
Once these symptoms are present, it might indicate that the individual is suffering from a neck sprain and must be properly assessed by a doctor.
Diagnosing a neck sprain
When diagnosing a neck sprain, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination. During the exam, the doctor will ask the individual how the injury occurred, check for any tenderness and measure the range of motion of the neck.
An X-ray will be requested to check the bones in the neck. This will help the doctor rule out or identify other possible sources of neck pain such as dislocations, spinal fractures, arthritis or other serious conditions.
All cases of strains or sprains are managed in the same way. Neck sprains typically heal gradually over time as long as proper treatment is provided. The individual might wear a soft collar around the neck to support the head as well as relieve pressure on the ligaments so that they have time to heal.
Pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin can also help relieve the pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants are also used to reduce the spasms. An ice pack can be applied for 15-30 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day for the initial 2-3 days after the injury to help reduce the discomfort and inflammation. Even though heat can help loosen up cramped muscles, it should not be used right away. Other treatment options that can be used include the following:
- Massage the tender region
- Aerobic and isometric exercises
- Cervical traction.
It is important to note that most of the symptoms of neck sprain will subside within 4-6 weeks. To learn to recognize and manage the condition, enroll in a first aid class today. Nevertheless, in severe cases, it might take a longer time to fully heal.