The seven bones in your neck are called cervical vertebrae. They are connected
to each other by ligaments, which are strong bands of tissue not unlike
thick rubber bands. A sprain is a stretch or tear in the ligament resulting
from a sudden movement that causes the neck to extend to an extreme position.
For example, in the rapid deceleration of a car crash, your head and neck
can stretch far forward before stopping.
CAUSES OF NECK SPRAINS
The most typical causes of neck sprain are trauma such as motor vehicle
crashes and accidental injury during contact sports.
NECK SPRAIN SYMPTOMS
Patients suffering a neck sprain will experience pain-especially in the
back of the neck-that worsens with movement. Headache, muscle spasms,
pain in the upper regions of the shoulders, and numbness in the arm or
hand may result. It is also not uncommon to feel a stiffness or decrease
in the range of motion.
TREATMENT FOR NECK SPRAINS
Neck sprains, like other sprains, will gradually heal, given time and appropriate
treatment. You may have to wear a soft cervical collar to help support
the head and relieve pressure on the neck so the ligaments have time to
heal. Analgesics, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help reduce the pain
and any swelling. Muscle relaxants can help ease spasms. You can apply
an ice pack for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day for the
first two or three days after the injury. This will help reduce inflammation
and discomfort. Most symptoms will resolve in four to six weeks. A severe
injury, such as might be sustained in a motor vehicle accident, may take
longer to heal completely.