for Patients

Neck Strain

Overview

Neck strain is an injury to the soft tissue of your neck, specifically the muscles, tendons and ligaments that keep the bones of your neck in place. If any of these soft tissues are injured, your neck can move out of place, causing pain.

Causes

Neck strain result from several different causes:

  • Over exertion. Straining your muscles too hard can lead you to "pull" a muscle, which results in tiny tears on the muscle fibers. Over exertion can also lead to neck strain if you are carrying heavy loads on one side of your body.
  • Injury. If you fall or are in an accident, your tendons, ligaments or muscles in the back can be strained, torn or inflamed by the sudden movement. Whiplash is the most common injury to cause neck strain.
  • Poor posture. Slumping or hunching over can put pressure on the muscles, or cause knots to form in the muscles of the neck, which affect their ability to hold the bones of the neck in place.

Symptoms

  • Neck ache
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of range of motion

Diagnosis

First step toward diagnosis will be a physical exam by one of our physicians.

Treatment

We have several methods of treating neck strain.

  • Physical Therapy: Often, neck strain can be treated nonsurgically by strengthening the muscles of the neck, back and core through physical therapy and exercise. This treatment also includes stretching exercises that help relieve pain.
  • Medication: We may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxers to reduce the pain and swelling associated with neck strain.
  • Cervical collar: We may immobilize the neck through the support a cervical collar offers for two to three weeks to allow the soft tissue of the neck to heal.
  • Injections: We may also administer cortisone trigger point injections to relieve pain.