A neck strain refers to an injury to the muscles and tendons that support the neck and allow head and neck movement. A strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched and tears and is also called a pulled muscle. Because the neck is capable of a considerably wide range of motion, it is less stable than many other body areas and thus, highly prone to injuries. In some cases, neck stability is given up for mobility.
Strains should not be confused with sprains. Strains pertain to damages to moving and contracting tissues, such as muscles and tendons. On the other hand, sprains pertain to damages to non-moving tissues, such as ligaments, blood vessels and nerves, among others. However, both may cause significant damage to the neck and its associated structures.
The neck accommodates of several important anatomic structures including the airway, spinal cord, and blood vessels that bring blood to and from the brain. Although neck strains do not usually affect these vital structures, it is important to note the importance of keeping the neck protected. To learn about how to manage emergency scenarios that involve the neck, such as neck strain and spinal injuries, enrol in First Aid Training and CPR courses to be able to give effective first aid and CPR.
What Causes Neck Strain?
Neck strain is usually caused by an indirect trauma to the neck. This can be caused when the head is involved in hyperflexion (flung forward) or hyperextension (flung backward). Constant rotation and compression of the neck may also lead to neck strains. The most common causes of neck strain include:
- Motor vehicular accidents causing whiplash
- Constant or continued extension of the neck
- Abnormal or awkward posture from sleeping or during awake hours
What are the Symptoms of Neck Strain?
The following symptoms are commonly associated with neck strains:
- Neck pain and discomfort, which may not necessarily occur immediately
- If pain occurs immediately, seek medical help immediately
- Neck stiffness, which may spread to the lower back
- Incapable of performing daily activities or tasks
- Tingling sensation
- Loss of coordination
How is First Aid Administered in Cases of Neck Strain?
All cases of neck strain will require at least a medical visit to ensure that no other injuries are present elsewhere in the body, especially in cases of substantial mechanism of injury or intense, continuing symptoms. In mild cases of neck strain, it may be treated at home but in cases of severe pain and history of intense trauma, seek medical help immediately. To administer first aid in neck strain, the following steps may be performed:
- Apply dry or moist heat to the affected area to stimulate healing.
- Over-the-counter pain medications may be taken, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to help reduce pain.
- When the person lies down, place a small pillow beneath the neck’s nape to align the head and neck.
Gently massage the neck to stimulate the flow of blood in the area and reduce symptoms of neck strain.