Your cervical spine, or neck, is made up

Your cervical spine, or neck, is made up of seven bones stacked on top of each other with a shock-absorbing disc between each level. Your neck is relatively flexible so it relies on muscles and ligaments for support. “Sprains” and “strains” are the result of these tissues being stretched too hard or too far, much like a rope that frays when it is stretched beyond its normal capacity.

Auto accidents and sports injuries are the leading causes of neck sprains and strains. Other less traumatic activities like reaching, pushing, pulling, moving heavy objects and falls can also trigger these problems. Most commonly, sprains and strains are not the result of any single event but rather from repeated overloading. Tendons and ligaments generally manage small isolated stressors quite well, but repetitive challenges lead to injury in much the same way that constantly bending a piece of copper wire will cause it to break.

Symptoms from a sprain/strain may begin abruptly but more commonly develop gradually. Complaints often include dull neck pain that becomes sharper when you move your head. Rest may relieve your symptoms but often leads to stiffness. The pain is generally centered in the back of your neck but can spread to your shoulders or between your shoulder blades. Tension headaches commonly accompany neck injuries.

Sprain/strain injuries cause your normal healthy elastic tissue to be replaced with less elastic “scar tissue”. This process can lead to ongoing pain and even arthritis. Seeking early and appropriate treatment, like the type provided in our office, is critical. Depending upon the severity of your injury, you may need to limit your activity for awhile- especially movements or activities that cause pain. Avoid heavy lifting and take frequent breaks from prolonged activity, particularly overhead activity. Following acute injuries, you can apply ice for 10-15 minutes each hour. Heat may be helpful after several days or for more chronic types of pain.

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