Neck Strain

What Is A Neck Strain? A strain is a tear of a muscle or tendon. Your neck is surrounded by small muscles running close to the vertebrae and larger muscles that make up the visible muscles of the neck.

How Does It Occur? Neck strains most commonly occur when the head and neck are forcibly moved, such as in a whiplash injury or from contact in sports.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Neck Strain? You literally have a pain in your neck.  When these muscles go into spasm you feel hard, tight muscles in your neck that are very tender to the touch.  You have pain when you move your head to either side or when you try to move your head up or down.  The spasming muscles can cause headaches.

How Is It Diagnosed? Your health care provider will examine your neck.  Your neck muscles will be tender and tight, and you may have pain over the bones in your neck.  Your health care provider may order x-rays to make sure the vertebrae are not injured.

How Is A Neck Strain Treated? Right after the injury you should place an ice pack on your neck for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 of 4 hours for 2 to 3 days or until the pain goes away.

Your health care provider may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication and a neck collar to support your neck and prevent further injury.

If you still have neck pain several days after the injury and after using ice, your health care provider may recommend using moist heat on your neck.  You can buy a moist-heat pad or make your own by soaking towels in hot water.  You should apply moist heat to the neck for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 or 4 hours until the pain goes away.  You may find that it helps to alternate putting heat and ice on your neck.

How Long Will The Effects Last? Most people recover from a neck strain in a few days to a few weeks, but some people take longer to get better.

When Can I Return To My Sport Or Activity? The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as son as is safely possible.  If you return too soon you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage.  Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate.  Return to your sport or activity will be determined by how soon your neck recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred.  In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better.

If you participate in contact sports, it is important to rehabilitate your neck and shoulders before going back to competition.  You must have full range of motion of your neck.  This means you must be able to:

  • 1. Turn your head fully to look over both shoulders.
  • 2. Extend your head backward as fat as possible.
  • 3. Flex your neck forward until you chin touches your chest.
  • 4. Move your head in each direction so that your ear touches your shoulder.


If any of these actions cause burning in your neck or shoulder or pain or spasm in your neck or shoulder muscles, you are not yet able to return.

How Can I Prevent Neck Strain? A neck strain is best prevented by having strong and supple neck muscles.  If you have a job that requires you to be in one position all day (for example, work at a computer all day ), it is very important to take breaks and relax your neck muscles.

In many cases an injury to the neck occurs during an accident that is not preventable.

Neck Strain Rehabilitation Exercises:

Do these exercises only if you do not have pain or numbness running down your arm into your hand. Exercises 1 through 4 are meant to help your neck remain flexible.  Exercise 5 will help you maintain or regain your range of motion.

1.  Neck range of motion exercises

      A.  Neck rotation:  Sit in a chair, keeping your neck, shoulders and trunk straight.  First, turn your head slowly to the right.  Move it gently to the point of pain.  Move it back to the forward position.  Relax.  Then move it to the left.  Repeat 10 times.

      B.  Neck Side bend:  Tilt your head so that your right ear moves toward your right shoulder.  Move it to the point of pain.  Then tilt your head so your left ear moves toward your left shoulder.  Make sure you do not rotate your head while tilting or raise your shoulder toward your head.  Repeat this exercise 10 times in each direction.

     C.  Neck flexion:  Bend your head forward, reaching your chin toward your chest. Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.

D.      Next extension: Bring your head back so that your chin is pointing toward the ceiling.  Repeat 10 times.

2.  Upper trapezius stretch:  The upper trapezius muscle connects your shoulder to your head.  Sitting in and upright position, put your right arm behind your back and gently grasp the right side of your head toward the left.  You will feel a gentle stretch on your right side.  Hold for 20 seconds.  Repeat 3 times on each side.

3.  Scalene stretch:  This stretches the neck muscles that attach to your ribs.  Sitting in an upright position, clasp both hands behind your back, lower your left shoulder, and tilt your head toward the right.  Hold this position for 20 seconds and then come back to the starting position.  Lower your right shoulder and tilt your head toward the left until you feel a stretch.  Hold for 20 seconds.  Repeat 3 times on each side.

4.  Neck isometric exercises

      A.  Neck Flexion:  Sit upright, look straight ahead, and keep your chin level.  Apply light pressure with your fingertips to your forehead, resisting bending your head forward.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 5 times.

      B.  Neck extensions:  Sitting upright, apply light pressure with your fingertips to the back of your head, resisting the bending backward of your head.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 5 times.

      C.  Neck side bend:  Sitting upright, place your right palm on the right side of your head and press your head into you palm.  Hold this for 5 seconds and then relax.  Repeat the same resistance using your left hand on the left side of your head. Repeat on each side 5 times.

5.  Head lifts

      A.  Neck curl:  Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  Tuck your chin and left your head toward your chest, keeping your shoulders on the floor.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.

      B.  Neck side bend:  Turn onto your right side.  With your right forearm underneath your head, lift your head slowly toward your left shoulder.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.  Switch to your left side and repeat the exercise lifting your head toward your right shoulder.

      C. Hands and knees neck extension:  Get on your hands and knees and look down at the floor.  Keep your back straight and left your head slowly drop toward your chest.  Then tuck your chin and left your head up until your neck is level with your back.  Hold this position for 5 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.

All material provided is designed for information purposes only and should not be used to replace the care of a health care professional. Do not rely on any of the information for diagnosis or treatment. It is recommended that you visit a qualified health care professional for individual and personal attention.

What Is A Neck Strain? A strain is a tear of a muscle or tendon. Your neck is surrounded by

Neck Strain

Show more Show less
Loading...   Loading...