Cervical sprain or cervical strain is a neck injury, which results in stiffness, pain, weakness, and muscle spasm. A sprain is an injury to the ligament, a tissue connecting bone to bone or a joint capsule providing joint stability. Damaged joint capsule or ligament results in instability in a joint.
A strain is an injury to the tendon and muscle in the neck after the sudden force tearing and and stretching them. Although neck sprains and strains are different, their causes, symptoms and treatment are the same in most cases.
The cause of both of them can be tearing or stretching of soft tissue. Whiplash during motor vehicle accidents is the most common cause of cervical strains/sprains. The head moves forth and back in a sudden movement during this type of injury, which stretches muscles and ligaments of the neck beyond their normal limits. Cervical strains and sprains can also be caused by improper lifting, fall, improper posture when sitting at a desk and using a computer, contact sports, driving, or something like that.
Pain is the first symptom of cervical strain or sprain. It begins straight after an injury, lingers on a number of hours, or comes after misuse or overuse of the neck muscles and upper back muscles. The pain improves during rest and increases during some activities. Some people may suffer from chronic pain developing from a cervical strain or sprain.
A specialist at Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation will ask a patient about what kind of pain he/she is experiencing, where it is located, what could cause the pain, and what makes it improve or worsen, taking a complete medical history. To diagnose a cervical strain or sprain, the doctor needs to carry out manual and physical exam, testing a patient for swelling, range of motion, tenderness, stiffness, and pain. Computer tomography (CT) scan, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electromyography (EMG) are required in order to become fully aware of the injury.
If a person has a neck or head injury, or has been injured during motor vehicle accident, he/she should immediately consult a specialist in order to find out the severity and extent of the trauma. The same should be done when a person is suffering from a severe or sudden pain, weakness, or numbness. In case you suspect having a cervical strain or sprain and the pain doesn’t disappear within a few days of rest, heat and cold therapy, and gentle stretching exercises, it is required to consult a doctor to get a proper treatment.
Home care is usually all that is necessary for cervical strains and sprains. It may include rest, pain creams or pain medications, mild stretching, and altering heat and ice. The goal of the last treatment is relaxing sore muscles and alleviating stiffness. However, it can also increase inflammation, thus it is necessary to be careful while carrying it out.
Most patients are usually prescribed pain-relieving and muscle spasm-treating medications. Sometimes, doctors must use a narcotic, if other medications can’t reduce pain. Some patients are instructed to wear soft collars serving to support painful tissues.
In cases when home treatment doesn’t help, it is recommended to undergo physical therapy and other treatments and take advantage of rehabilitation. Physical therapy at NY Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation is aimed at stretching and strengthening neck and upper back muscles. Patients are usually advised to continue practicing home exercise program on a regular basis in order to prevent further injuries by strengthening spine.
As for other treatments, traction, corticosteroids injections, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can reduce the pain by increasing circulation to the injury site, which significantly facilitates the healing process. Such “hands on therapies” are aimed at increasing neck mobility and decreasing muscle spasm, pain, and inflammation. In rare cases it is necessary to undergo a surgery.
Results of cervical sprain or sprain treatment
In most cases full recovery of cervical strains/strains can be made with the help of home treatment accompanied by a physical therapy regimen. Depending on the extent of the trauma, a full recovery can take from a few days up to several months. The pain may even become chronic, which will be relieved only with invasive treatments.
A neck sprain or strain can result in significant stiffness, pain, and discomfort, thus it is required to consult a doctor for treatment and evaluation in order to prevent any possible health issues in the future.
Specialists at NY Dynamic Neuromuscular rehabilitation have an outstanding reputation gained by perfect results and strong commitment helping patients to reach speedy and full recovery. It is necessary to add that one should not try to diagnose oneself with the help of described symptoms and decide on the future treatment by oneself, not consulting a specialist. In order to prevent complications and further injuries, one should consult a specialist and follow all his instructions.