What is a Cervical Strain or Sprain?
People who are involved in motor vehicle crashes or who take hard falls in a contact sport or around the house may get a real “pain in the neck.” This pain can result from a ligament sprain or muscle strain.
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.
How do the Cervical ligaments become Strained or Sprained?
The seven bones of the spinal column in your neck are called cervical vertebrae. They are connected to each other by ligaments, which are strong bands of tissue, like thick rubber bands. While the cervical spine is the most mobile segment of the spine, the extra mobility makes it the most susceptible to strain and injury. Both sprains and strains are injuries to the soft tissues. The difference between a sprain and a strain is that a strain affects muscles and tendons while sprains affect ligaments. Excessive flexion and extension can cause injury, especially in combination of poor posture.
How do you treat a Cervical Strain or Sprain?
Surgery is not required for most sprains and strains. Treatment options are focused on non-operative methods. In most cases, patients are prescribed pain medications along with a medication for anti-inflammatory purposes and muscle relaxants. Some patients are required to wear a cervical collar for two to three weeks to help manage pain and movement of the cervical spine. Your physician may also request that you do physical therapy for a few weeks to strengthen the muscles and prevent future injury.