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Cervical Sprain/Strain

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  • Cervical sprains and strains are common injuries of the neck, resulting in pain, stiffness, muscle spasm or weakness.  A cervical sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the neck.  Cervical strains are injuries to the muscles in the neck.  Both injuries are caused by stretching or tearing of soft tissue.


    What is a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    Cervical sprains and strains are common injuries of the neck, resulting in pain, stiffness, muscle spasm or weakness.  A cervical sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the neck.  Cervical strains are injuries to the muscles in the neck.  Both injuries are caused by stretching or tearing of soft tissue.


    What causes a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    A common cause of cervical sprains and strains is whiplash, which typically occurs during motor vehicle accidents.  In this type of injury, the head moves back and forth in a very sudden movement (acceleration-deceleration), injuring ligaments or muscles of the neck by stretching them beyond their normal limits.  Cervical sprains and strains can also occur from a fall, contact sports, improper lifting, poor posture while sitting at a desk, using a computer, working on a project, driving, or similar activities.


    What are the symptoms of a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    The primary symptom of cervical sprains and strains is pain that begins immediately after an injury, a number of hours following an injury, or over time following prolonged overuse or misuse of the muscles in the neck and upper back.  The pain is usually worse when engaged in activity and improves at rest.   Some individuals may develop chronic pain resulting from a cervical sprain or strain.  There may be swelling and inflammation, stiffness, and limited range of motion in addition to pain.


    How is a Cervical Sprain/Strain diagnosed?

    A medical professional will take a complete medical history and will ask questions about the type of pain you are experiencing, where it is located and what initially caused the pain or makes it worse or better.  A physical and manual exam will also take place and the doctor will test for range of motion, swelling and tenderness, pain, and stiffness.  In some cases, an x-ray, CT (computerized tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or EMG (electromyography) may be needed to fully diagnose the injury.


    When should I seek care for a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    If you experience an injury related to a motor vehicle accident or a head or neck trauma, you should seek immediate medical attention to determine the extent and severity of the injury.  If you have severe or sudden pain, numbness or weakness, you should seek medical care.  If you experience pain from what you suspect is a cervical sprain or strain that does not improve after a few days of rest, mild stretching and cold and heat therapy, it is best to see a doctor.


    What will the treatment for a Cervical Sprain/Strain consist of?

    In many cases, home treatment is all that is needed for cervical sprains and strains to heal.  Home care may include rest, alternating cold and heat treatment (ice at first, which reduces inflammation, and then alternating ice and heat, which relaxes sore muscles and alleviates stiffness but may increase inflammation), over the counter pain medications or pain creams, and gentle stretching exercises.  If home treatment does not relieve pain, physical therapy and rehabilitation is recommended.  Physical therapy nyc will focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles in the neck and upper back.  Other treatments may also help ease discomfort, such as traction, immobilization (wearing a soft collar), injections of corticosteroids, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), or in rare situations, surgery may be necessary.  


    Which muscle groups/ joints are commonly affected by a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    Cervical sprains and strains affect the ligaments and muscles in the neck.


    What type of results should I expect from the treatment of a Cervical Sprain/Strain?

    Most individuals will make a full recovery from cervical sprains and strains following home treatment or a physical therapy regimen.  Recovery may occur in just a few days or may takes weeks or months, depending on the extent of the injury.  Infrequently, pain may remain chronic and will not be completely alleviated with non-invasive treatments.

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