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Neck muscle damage: Neck Strain Symptoms | Spine-health

Neck Strain Symptoms | Spine-health

Neck strains can range from being mildly annoying to severe and may limit head movements for basic tasks, such as getting dressed or going to work. Knowing the symptoms of neck strain can help identify the problem sooner and find treatments that work.

Learn about the symptoms associated with neck strain and how it can cause pain, tenderness, and difficulty moving the neck. Watch Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Common Symptoms of Neck Strain

Nearly all cases of muscle strain in the neck are either mild or moderate and will eventually heal, but even these cases can be troublesome and inconvenient. Common symptoms include one or more of the following:

See Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Sometimes a neck strain can accompany another injury or condition, which may cause additional symptoms.


Chronic Neck Strain from Poor Posture

While most neck strains go away on their own within a few days, healing cannot take place if the muscle strain is regularly reinjured. This situation is particularly common when the cause of the neck strain is undiagnosed.

For example, a person could go months or years with neck pain that worsens at the end of a long work day. If the pain is from poor posture or repetitive motions that cause the neck strain, it may be wise to give the neck a chance to rest and either avoid or modify previous activities that involved long periods of poor posture.

See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

In This Article:

  • Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

  • Neck Strain Symptoms

  • Neck Strain Diagnosis

  • Neck Strain Treatments and Prevention

  • Neck Strains and Sprains Video

  • Treatment for Neck Strain or Sprain Video

Serious Symptoms in Addition to Neck Strain

If a neck strain is the result of a sudden or major impact, such as a car accident, additional injuries in the cervical spine may occur or become exacerbated, such as a herniated disc or fracture. Symptoms that warrant a trip to the doctor for further evaluation include:

  • Pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness that radiates down into the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Visual problems or sensitivity to bright lights
  • Neck instability
  • Difficulty with finger dexterity
  • Gait disturbances such as feeling off balance
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

See What Causes Neck Pain and Dizziness?


Other troublesome symptoms could also exist. If severe neck pain or neck instability follows a major accident, medical personnel may need to immobilize the neck before transporting to the hospital.

Dr. D’Mitri Sofianos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine care. He is trained in minimally invasive spine surgery and practices at Memorial Spine and Chatham Orthopaedic Associates. Dr. Sofianos helped AOSpine, a global research community, to develop a software database designed to report and improve patient care.

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Neck Strain Treatments and Prevention

Most neck strains heal on their own, but finding the right treatment can help alleviate the pain while the injury is healing. In cases where neck pain lingers for more than a few days or initial treatments do not provide enough relief, trial-and-error may be needed to find the combination of treatments that work best.

A pillow with good support can help to minimize pain from a neck strain by relieving pressure on the structures of the neck. Read Pillows for Neck Pain

Initial Treatments for Neck Strain

When pain from a neck strain first develops, one or more of the following treatments are typically tried:

It should be noted that even if a neck muscle strain is painful with most movements, total bed rest and/or a neck brace are not typically recommended because that could lead to weaker neck muscles and a longer recovery period.

See Neck Muscles and Other Soft Tissues


Treatments for Neck Strains That Linger

If a neck strain lasts longer than a few days or perhaps another underlying problem in the cervical spine continues and causes muscle spasms and chronic pain, other treatments may need be needed for adequate relief. Some examples include:

  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist, physiatrist, or other trained medical professional may design a physical therapy program that targets muscles in the neck and elsewhere that need to become stronger and more flexible. Typically, a physical therapy program begins with instruction on how to do the exercises and stretches. After gradually making process over a period of a few weeks or months, the patient continues the program on his or her own at home.

    See Physical Therapy for Neck Pain Relief

  • Manual manipulation. A trained medical professional may make manual adjustments to the cervical spine (as well as lower in the spine) with the goal of realigning joints, improving the neck’s range of motion, and reducing pain.

    See Chiropractic Manipulation for the Cervical Spine

  • Massage therapy. A massage can loosen up and relax the muscles, as well as increase blood flow to the damaged tissues, which may provide some relief. Some medical professionals provide massage therapy in conjunction with manual manipulation.

    See Massage Therapy for Chronic Stiff Neck

  • Acupuncture. This treatment is based on the theory that unbalanced energy flows (or blockages) within the body may contribute to pain, and therefore strategic placements of thin needles in the body may restore balanced energy flows and reduce pain. While this theory has not been scientifically proven, some people report experiencing pain relief from acupuncture treatments.

    See Acupuncture: An Ancient Treatment for a Current Problem

  • Prescription medications. While rare, sometimes a neck strain may require a prescription medication to provide relief. For example, a muscle relaxant may be prescribed on a short-term basis to alleviate the pain from a particularly bad muscle spasm.

    See Medications for Back Pain and Neck Pain

This is not a complete list of neck strain treatments, and other treatments may be recommended by a doctor.

See Treatment for Neck Pain

In This Article:

  • Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

  • Neck Strain Symptoms

  • Neck Strain Diagnosis

  • Neck Strain Treatments and Prevention

  • Neck Strains and Sprains Video

  • Treatment for Neck Strain or Sprain Video

Reducing the Risk for Neck Strain

While not all neck strains can be prevented, some basic steps can reduce the risks.

3 Easy Neck Exercises for Neck Pain Video

  • Stay active. A physically active lifestyle keeps the whole body relatively strong and flexible, including the neck. In addition, regularly performing exercises and stretches that target the neck and core muscles can help improve posture as well.Many neck strains result from poor posture due to deconditioned neck muscles.

    See Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

  • Start slowly. When starting a new activity or sport, begin at a manageable pace or workload, then gradually build up over time. It is common to strain a muscle when performing a new or unfamiliar activity.
  • Take breaks. Repetitive motions can lead to muscle strain, including in the neck. Taking breaks or alternating activities enables muscles to rest and recover to avoid injury.
  • Sleep well. Finding the right pillow, mattress, and sleep position can reduce the risk for waking up with neck pain. However, everyone is different, and it could take trial-and-error before settling on what works best. For example, sleeping on the stomach causes the most stress on the cervical spine, but not everyone agrees as to whether sleeping on the side or on the back is better. Also, some people prefer a cervical pillow, but others may find more comfort with other pillows.

    See Mattress Guidelines for Sleep Comfort

  • Focus on posture. Sitting and standing up straight with shoulders back helps keep the spine in neutral alignment. Remembering to use good posture throughout the day helps minimize the forces acting on the intervertebral discs and ligaments.

    See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain


Having a strained neck increases the risk for it to happen again in the future. Also, trying to return too quickly from a neck strain injury before it heals can worsen the injury and prolong the recovery period.

Dr. D’Mitri Sofianos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine care. He is trained in minimally invasive spine surgery and practices at Memorial Spine and Chatham Orthopaedic Associates. Dr. Sofianos helped AOSpine, a global research community, to develop a software database designed to report and improve patient care.

  • Share on Facebook
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Editor’s Top Picks

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Neck strain – symptoms, causes, examinations and diagnosis

What should be done for early diagnosis of a neck sprain? The patient, first of all, needs to make an appointment for a consultation with a neurologist, vertebrologist and have an MRI scan of the cervical spine.

After the initial appointment, the doctor may prescribe additional examinations:

  • CT scan of the cervical spine.

A neck sprain is a sprain or sprain of the neck ligaments or muscles. A neck strain can occur without any obvious trauma, but sometimes it can be caused by a sudden blow to an object. The impact can cause the neck to quickly stretch out of its normal range and then snap back abruptly. This is commonly referred to as whiplash.

Symptoms of neck sprain

The patient will develop neck pain that worsens with movement. Sometimes this pain does not appear until 1-2 days after the event that caused it. Most likely, the patient will experience neck stiffness, which will interfere with limiting the range of motion. The back of the head may hurt. The patient may also experience pain in the shoulders or upper back. Additional symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • ringing in the ears
  • fatigue
  • Focal numbness in the arms or hands

If you develop symptoms after a specific whiplash-like incident, it is recommended that you see a neurologist for evaluation to rule out a more serious problem, such as a spinal cord injury. Weakness of the arms or legs, difficulty walking, and inability to control the bladder or bowels are signs of spinal cord injury.

Diagnosis of causes of neck strain – examination and tests

The neurological examination will examine the patient’s posture, ability to move, and the position of the head and chin of the patient. The neurologist will examine the blood vessels in the neck and may listen to them with a stethoscope. Also being examined:

  • neck range of motion
  • muscle tone of the neck and arms
  • reflexes
  • the ability to experience tactile sensations.

Imaging tests such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the cervical region may be used, but most patients with suspected mild neck sprains do not have these tests.


Pain, inflammation and tension in the cervical region can be treated with:

  • analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • ice compresses for the first 24 hours, followed by warming the neck with a wet towel.
  • muscle relaxants

Light neck movements and physiotherapy are also recommended. Range of motion exercises may be prescribed by a physical therapist.

Treatment prospects

Head and neck pain should resolve within a few weeks. Full recovery can take up to 3 months. If the patient still has symptoms after this time, further examination by a vertebrologist is necessary.

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List of scientific literature

  1. Chekhonatsky IA Radiation diagnostics of the cervical spine in craniocervical trauma in the acute period / IA Chekhonatsky, VA Chekhonatsky // Saratov Journal of Medical Scientific Research. – 2016. – T. 12. – No. 2. – S. 222-223.
  2. Nadtochiy A.G., Dyakova S.V., Danilycheva E.B., Vasilyeva M.A. Ultrasound diagnosis of diseases of the soft tissues of the face and neck in children II Guidelines.- M., 1997.-43 p.
  3. Kishkovsky A.N. Possibilities of computed tomography in the complex diagnosis of acute diseases and injuries / A.N. Kishkovsky. L.: VMA., – 1987. – 98 p.
  4. X-ray anatomy of the vascular system / ed. D. Puddle. – Budapest: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of Hungary, 1988. – 380 p.
  5. Abakumov M.M. Diagnosis and treatment of neck wounds / M.M. Abakumov, K.R. Dzhagraev // Surgery.- 1998.- No. 8.- P.10-19.

Neck injury: consequences, causes

Whiplash injury of the neck describes pain when the neck muscles are stretched. Appears as a result of a sharp and strong flexion, followed by extension of the neck. Occurs in road accidents, sports, injuries, bruises.

Causes of neck strain

Causes of whiplash injury include:

  • accident;
  • a strong blow to the head;
  • rides on attractions;
  • excessive physical activity;
  • falls;
  • birth injury;
  • pain in the facet joints;
  • stretching of the back muscles.

It is often difficult to determine the cause of neck pain on your own. Our doctors at the consultation can establish an accurate diagnosis and prevent subsequent complications.

Injury classification

Whiplash is classified according to the course of the disease and severity. Let’s look at both divisions.

The following periods are distinguished along the stream:


Current term


lasts up to 4 days


4-21 days


22 days – 1.5 months


46 days – 6 months


up to a year

According to the severity are distinguished:


What is characterized

1 degree

Complaints of neck stiffness, pain, minor soft tissue damage

2 degree

Damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, pronounced pain

3 degree

Accompanied by neurological disorders

4 degree

Highlights – dislocations, fractures of the cervical vertebrae

Case study:

A 55-year-old woman was taken to the hospital after an accident. The main complaints are headaches, tinnitus, pain and heaviness in the right arm, neck stiffness. On examination, no body fractures were found. The anamnesis indicated that at the time of the accident, the woman was sitting in the back seat wearing a seat belt. Assigned to: x-ray of the cervical spine, discography. Violation of the integrity of the structures of the cervical spine was not detected. Diagnosis: whiplash injury grade 1. Symptomatic treatment was prescribed.

Symptoms of neck strain

Prior to the diagnosis of whiplash, patients most often complain of:

  • cervical headaches;
  • migraine;
  • dizziness, accompanied by nausea, loss of balance;
  • tinnitus;
  • cramps in the occipital region;
  • distraction of attention;
  • labored breathing.

Post whiplash syndrome

It manifests itself in limited mobility of the neck, pain, visual impairment. It is characterized by a neurological syndrome. Post-whiplash syndrome develops after a severe whiplash injury.

Stretching of the neck muscles is often accompanied by a concussion. In this case, the clinical signs will be more pronounced. Our doctors at the consultation will be able to choose the right treatment, as well as refer you for a mandatory medical examination.

Which muscle groups are affected

Clinical signs depend on the affected area. The cervical region is fixed by two muscle groups:

  • true muscles of the neck, located at the very bone. When they are damaged, deep pain occurs;
  • the second group is located closer to the skin. The pain in this case will be sharp, shooting. Appears quickly.

Important! Muscles should not be disturbed at rest. In a pathological condition, pain appears with any movement of the head.

Whiplash Diagnosis

When making a diagnosis, doctors focus on:

  • patient complaints;
  • inspection carried out;
  • x-ray study. X-ray will make it possible to understand whether there is a fracture of the vertebrae or not, as well as to identify the presence of spasm – straightening of the cervical lordosis;
  • electromyography data and changes in the conduction of nerve impulses;
  • the results of discography, which is prescribed for pronounced pain that is not stopped by drugs;
  • MRI, CT – these studies will indicate the presence of ligament rupture, cartilage injury;
  • data of diagnostic analysis of the musculoskeletal system.

With dizziness, absent-mindedness, inability to concentrate, visual impairment, the patient is referred for a consultation with an ophthalmologist, a neurologist.

Complications of whiplash

Stretching of the ligaments of the neck does not cause complications, provided that the treatment is provided in a timely manner. Otherwise, fibrosis will develop. In other words, the pathological growth of connective tissue in the cervical spine. Then there is scarring and ossification of the ligaments and muscles. As a result, the work of the whole organism is disrupted.

The consequences may be:

  • intervertebral hernia;
  • migraine;
  • constant nausea;
  • spinal pain;
  • unstable blood pressure;
  • loss of neck mobility;
  • post-traumatic osteoarthritis;
  • swallowing disorder;
  • partial or complete paralysis;
  • neurological disorders.

All complications can lead to disability of the patient. Our doctors will quickly respond to the situation, since every minute is important, they will help to understand the situation, they will tell you which drugs are best to use.

Prevention of muscle strain

To prevent damage to the cervical spine, it is recommended:

  • do not drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, after sedatives;
  • undergo maintenance in a timely manner;
  • the car must have a fixed head restraint;
  • comply with traffic rules;
  • avoid head and back injuries;
  • observe safety rules when playing sports;
  • observe the technique of performing sports exercises;
  • do not dive into waters with a poorly studied bottom.

Cervical treatment

With this pathology, fixation of the cervical region is important in therapy. For these purposes, doctors select a special orthopedic collar. This allows you to reduce the load on the damaged area. The collar is worn for 3 days. Then he is dressed for no more than 6 hours daily with an hour break. The course of such therapy is two months.

Medical treatment

For drug therapy use:

  • anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal drugs. They relieve swelling, reduce the sensitivity of nerve endings, eliminate pain;
  • in the presence of depression, antidepressants are indicated;
  • muscle relaxants are prescribed to relax the muscles;
  • Analgesics are used to relieve severe pain.


Allow to accelerate the process of tissue repair:

  • ultrasound treatment;
  • cryotherapy;
  • electrophoresis;
  • electrical stimulation of muscle tissue.

Manual therapy sessions are needed to eliminate dysfunctions. Several sessions are enough for recovery. The course depends on the nature of the injury and its complexity.

Exercise therapy classes are useful to combine with back massage, the emphasis is on the collar zone. This will release the blockage and relax the neck muscles.

Surgical intervention is indicated only in cases where whiplash causes compression of the spinal cord.

It is possible to use blockades, but they give a short-term effect.

In cases where there is no timely treatment, fibrosis and tissue calcification begin. You can find out about the presence of pathology by contacting our doctors. They will conduct a consultation, draw up a treatment plan, and, if necessary, refer you for additional studies.


What to do if you stretch your neck?


Neck stretching is caused by microtrauma of muscle fibers. Appears as a result of a sharp tension of the tissues, the muscles and ligaments on the neck lengthen, lose their elasticity. If you have pulled your neck, it is important to consult a doctor in the first hours. Shants collars can alleviate the condition.

What to do if the child pulled his neck


If the child has twisted his neck, it is necessary to calm him down, give complete rest to the injured area. Specify under what circumstances the injury occurred. Apply cold. The child should not be moved, turned over, raised his head and performed other actions that make the neck muscles tense. This can cause additional injury to the ligaments, muscles, vertebrae.

Who is more likely to get whiplash?


This pathology is more common in women – 2.5 times at the age of 30 to 50 years. Experts explain this by the fact that women may have less strength of the cervical muscles. In addition, the fair sex is more likely to seek help from doctors.