Diagnosing & Treating Neck Sprains
Category: Neck Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
A neck sprain involves the overstretching of a muscle or ligament in the neck region, and it can be caused by forceful contact or a seemingly innocuous motion. In most cases, neck sprains aren’t all that serious, but if you don’t actively treat the condition, pain and discomfort can linger. Below, we take a closer look at the symptoms and treatment options for neck sprains.
Causes and Symptoms of Neck Sprains
As we mentioned in the intro, forceful trauma or simpler actions can both cause neck sprains. For example, one of the most common causes of a neck sprain is the result of a whiplash injury during a car accident. When your head is thrown forcefully in one direction, your neck muscles and ligaments will absorb most of this stress, and if they are overloaded, they can tear or become injured. Athletic activity is another common source of neck sprains, especially in athletics like soccer and football. As for more innocent actions, sleeping in an awkward position or a forceful sneeze and both result in neck sprains.
Symptoms of a sprained neck include:
- Neck pain
- Pain that worsens with movement
- Numbness in the shoulders, arms or hands
- Muscle weakness
If you notice any of these symptoms or you’re dealing with more serious symptoms, like an inhibited gait or bladder issues, visit a doctor for an evaluation.
Diagnosing and Treating Neck Sprains
Diagnosing a neck sprain is a pretty straightforward process, and it begins with a visit to a spine specialist. From there, they’ll ask you about your symptoms and conduct some physical tests to look for muscle weakness and the range of motion in your neck. They’ll have a good idea of where your pain is located and what’s causing it, but they may order an imaging test just to confirm. Imaging tests are not usually needed, but they can be helpful if your doctor suspects that you may be dealing with another injury, like a cervical fracture.
The good news is that neck sprains can almost always be rectified with conservative treatments. Although your individual treatment plan may vary, the most common treatment plans include anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat therapy, rest, physical therapy or stretching exercises and muscle relaxers. Refraining from intense activity is also advised, but stretching and gentle movement is encouraged to help build your range of motion.
In most cases, neck sprains resolve within the course of a couple days or weeks, but in the most extreme cases, a full recovery can take up to 12 weeks. If you’re not experiencing relief after six weeks, consider scheduling another appointment with your physician. For more information on neck sprain management, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.