A neck strain is a muscle injury of the neck and is quite common injury that generally is a mild to moderate injury which clears by itself within a few days to a week.
Symptoms of a Neck Strain – Pain in the neck area. Pain on turning the head or looking up or down. A stiff neck. A feeling of tightness in the muscles of the neck. There may be a tender area of muscle when you touch it. You may experience pain or tingling into the arms.
A neck strain is not a serious injury. However, the pain and dysfunction that it causes can be significant. This article reviews both first aid approaches to alleviate the pain, as well as signs and symptoms that indicate when to see a doctor.
The anatomy of the cervical spine is a marvelous construct that houses and protects the delicate spinal cord, provides support for the head, and allows for a high degree of mobility and range of motion. But the same engineering that allows this area of the spine to be so flexible also leaves it vulnerable to injury.
Triggers for the onset of neck muscle strain can be traced to several common activities that strain the neck anatomy, such as:
Too much time in an awkward position, such as hunched over a steering wheel while driving, hunched forward to view a computer monitor, or cradling a phone in the crook of the neck
Sleeping in a position that strains the neck, such as with a pillow that is too high or too firm
Carrying a heavy suitcase or other object on one side of the body
Any form of trauma that impacts the neck, such as from whiplash in a car accident, or from a fall in which one lands on the top of the head
Applying ice or cold packs. The cold helps reduce inflammation in the area, which in turn allows it to heal. The ice or cold pack should be applied in twenty-minute intervals during the initial 24 hours.
Applying heat. The heat helps bring nutrient-rich blood flow to the area to stimulate a healing response. Some people prefer moist heat, such as from a hot bath or shower. Others find more relief from applying continuous low level heat from a heat wrap (such as brand name Thermacare, or store brand heat wraps)