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Neck Sprain

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.

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