Neck sprains may cause:
- Neck pain that gets worse with movement, especially in the back of the neck
- Shoulder pain and muscle spasms
- A tingling tingling or weak feeling in the arms
- Headache, especially in the back of the head
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble paying attention
- Stiffness and difficulty moving the head in one or more direction
You will be asked about your symptoms, health history, and how you hurt your neck. A physical exam will be done. Your neck will be checked to look for any nerve damage.
Pictures may be needed of your neck. This can be done with:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Neck sprains are graded based on the amount of injury:
- Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligaments
- Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligaments
- Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligaments
Strict rest is rarely needed. The neck can be moved as long as it does not make pain worse.
Ice and Heat
Ice may help reduce swelling and pain in the first few days after the injury.
After a couple of days, heat may help loosen tight or injured muscles. Wait for swelling to go away before you use heat.
Medicine can help to reduce pain and swelling. Here are some options:
- Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as aspirin, ibuprofen
- Topical pain medicine—creams or patches that are put on the skin
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxers
Note: Aspirin is not advised for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving it to your child.
Therapy may be needed for severe sprains. Here are some methods:
- Cervical traction—a special method to stretch the neck and reduce muscle spasm
- Physical therapy—restores flexibility, range of motion , and strength in your neck
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org
Canadian Physiotherapy Association http://www.physiotherapy.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
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