DefinitionA neck sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the neck. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other. They help stabilize joints, including the neck.
CausesLigaments normally stretch as the joints move. A sprain is caused by a force that makes a ligament stretch farther than it should. The force is usually the result of an accident or trauma. Some forces can cause tears in the ligament tissue.
|Cervical Spine (Neck)|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of getting a neck sprain include:
- Being in a car accident
- Assaults with a blow to the head
- Sporting events that include full contact at high velocity
- Hard fall
- Occupations that put you at risk for severe falls or car accidents
SymptomsNeck sprain may cause:
- Neck pain that gets worse with movement, especially in the back of the neck
- Shoulder pain and muscle spasms
- Tingling sensations or weakness in the arms
- Headache, especially in the back of the head
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Stiffness and difficulty moving the head in one or more direction
DiagnosisThe doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and how you injured your neck. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check the stability of your neck and look for any nerve damage. Images of bones and soft tissue may be needed to look for other potential injuries such as dislocated spinal discs or fractures. The doctor may also need to rule out other causes of neck pain such as arthritis or disc disease. Imaging tests may include:
- Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligaments.
- Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligaments.
- Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligaments.
Acute CareRestYour neck will need time to heal but strict rest is rarely necessary. For most, you should continue to move your neck as long as it does not increase pain. Go about your normal activities as much as you can tolerate.Ice and HeatIce may help decrease swelling and pain in the first few days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin to avoid injuring your skin.After a couple of days heat may help loosen tight or injured muscles. Wait for swelling to go away before using heat therapy.MedicationsMedication can help to relieve discomfort and swelling. Medications may include:
- Over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen
- Topical pain medication—creams or patches that are applied to the skin
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
RecoveryTherapy may be needed for severe sprains. Some therapeutic methods include:
- Cervical traction—a special technique to stretch the neck and reduce muscle spasm
- Physical therapy—restores flexibility, range of motion , and strength in your neck
PreventionNeck sprain is often the cause of an accident. To help reduce your chance of a neck sprain:
- Drive carefully to avoid car accidents.
- Wear your seat/shoulder belt.
- Wear proper equipment and use proper technique when playing sports.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Cervical sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated May 25, 2013. Accessed September 20, 2013
Conlin A, Bhogal S, et al. Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders—part II: Medical and surgical interventions. Pain Research & Management. 2005;10:33-40.
Duane TM, Wilson SP, et al. Canadian cervical spine rule compared with computed tomography: a prospective analysis. J Trauma. 2011;71(2):352-357.
Langevin P, Peloso PM, et al. Botulinum toxin for subacute/chronic neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD008626.
Neck sprain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00410. Updated August 2007. Accessed September 20, 2013
Teasell RW, McClure JA, et al. A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions forwhiplash-associated disorder (WAD): part 2 - interventions for acute WAD. Pain Res Manag. 2010;15(5):295-304.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/30/2013
Many medical groups felt that early exposure to certain foods like peanuts increased a child's risk of developing food allergies. However, newer research including this trial suggest that early exposure may actually decrease the risk of developing food allergies.
Breastfeeding May Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity
Tonsillectomy May Reduce Number of Sore Throat Days in Children
Research Review Finds Little Support for Nearly Half of Medical Talk Show Recommendations