Spine Conditions

Other Injuries


The seven bones of the spinal column in your neck, known as the cervical vertebrae, are connected to each other by ligaments and muscles–strong bands of tissue that act like thick rubber bands. Neck sprains and strings are common injuries where a sprain (stretch) or tear can occur in one or more of these soft tissues. Often, such injuries result from a sudden movement, such as a car accident or a motor vehicle collision, causing the neck to bend to an extreme position (AAOS, 2015).


Symptoms of Neck Sprains

A person with a neck sprain may experience a wide range of possible symptoms.

  • Pain, especially in the back of the neck, that worsens with movement. This could be attributed to a neck strain affecting the neck muscle.
  • Pain that peaks a day or so after the injury, instead of immediately
  • Muscle spasms and pain in the upper shoulder
  • Headache in the back of the head
  • Sore throat
  • Increased irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating
  • Numbness in the arm or hand
  • Neck stiffness or decreased range of motion (side to side, up and down, circular)
  • Tingling or weakness in the arms
  • A football player “spears” an opponent with his head.
  • An ice hockey player is struck from behind and rams into the boards.
  • A gymnast misses the high bar during a release move and falls.
  • A diver strikes the bottom of a shallow pool.

Neck sprains and strains, while common, should never be taken lightly. The initial approach to treatment often includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (often abbreviated as R.I.C.E.), particularly within the first 24-48 hours after the injury. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a precise diagnosis and to determine the grade of the injury. They may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. In certain cases, a cervical collar might be suggested to stabilize the neck and prevent further strain. It’s essential to understand the causes behind the sprain or muscle strain, as this can guide rehabilitation and preventive measures. For those who engage in sports, understanding the par or standard of safe practice can help prevent recurring injuries. Regular follow-up with a healthcare provider ensures that the neck heals properly and reduces the risk of complications.

Any injury to the vertebrae can have serious consequences because the spinal cord, the central nervous system’s connection between the brain and the body, runs through the center of the vertebrae. Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis or death. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down.


In a trauma situation, it may be difficult to assess at first evaluation the extent of injuries to the cervical spine. The neck should be immobilized until x-rays are taken and reviewed by a physician. Emergency medical personnel will assume that an unconscious individual has a neck injury and respond accordingly.

At the accident scene, first check vital signs, including the patient’s consciousness, ability to breathe, and heart rate. After these are stabilized, workers will assess obvious bleeding and limb-deforming injuries. Once the trauma team has stabilized all other life-threatening injuries, the doctor can evaluate the injury.

Before moving the patient from the scene, you must immobilize the patient in a cervical (neck) collar and backboard. The trauma team will perform a complete and thorough evaluation in the hospital emergency room.


Neck sprains, like other sprains, will usually heal gradually, given time and appropriate treatment. You may have to wear a soft collar around your neck to help support the head and relieve pressure on the ligaments so they have time to heal.

Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help reduce the pain and any swelling. Muscle relaxants can help ease spasms.

You can apply an ice pack for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day for the first 2 or 3 days after the injury.


This will help reduce inflammation and discomfort. Although heat, particularly moist heat, can help loosen cramped muscles, it should not be applied too quickly.

Other treatment options include:

  • Massaging the tender area
  • Ultrasound
  • Cervical traction
  • Aerobic and isometric exercise


For neck pains, strains and sprains caused by posture or body mechanics

  • Avoid slouching or a head-forward posture. Sit straight in your chair with your lower back supported, feet flat on the floor, and shoulders relaxed. Don’t sit for long periods without getting up or changing positions. Take short breaks several times an hour to stretch your neck muscles.
  • If you work at a computer, adjust the monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level. Use a document holder that puts your work at the same level as the screen.
  • If you use the telephone a lot, use a headset or speaker phone. Don’t cradle the phone on your shoulder.
  • Adjust the seat of your car to a more upright position that supports your head and lower back. Make sure that you are not reaching for the steering wheel while driving. Your arms should be in a slightly flexed, comfortable position.
  • Use proper lifting techniques. Lift with your knees, not your back.

For neck pains, strains, and sprains caused by sleep habits

  • Use a pillow that keeps your neck straight. Special neck support pillows called cervical pillows or rolls may relieve neck stress. You can also fold a towel lengthwise into a pad that is 4 in. (10 cm) wide, wrap it around your neck, and pin it in position for good support.
  • Don’t sleep on your stomach with your neck twisted or bent.
  • If you read in bed, prop up the book so you aren’t using your arms to hold it up and bending your neck forward. Consider using a wedge-shaped pillow to support your arms and keep your neck in a neutral position.

Other prevention tips

  • If stress is adding to your neck pain, practice relaxation exercises. Consider getting a massage.
  • Strengthen and protect your neck by doing neck exercises once a day.
  • Stay at a healthy body weight


Dr. Hamid Mir, M.D.

Dr Hamid Mir is a board certified orthopedic spine surgeon with fellowship training in combined neurosurgery and orthopedic spine surgery. He has offices in OC, Los Angeles & Riverside. Dr Mir specializes in spinal fusion, lumbar surgery and treating trauma as well as other conditions affecting the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine including degenerative diseases, stenosis, fracture, infection, adult scoliosis, revision, and complex reconstructions.


You are more than just a patient.

Dr. Hamid Mir is a member of American Board of Orthopedic Surgery with fellowship training in combined neurosurgical and orthopedic spine surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in 2004. As a top rated spine surgeon, he specializes in cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine diseases including degenerative, stenosis, fracture, infection, scoliosis, revision, and complex reconstructions.

Dr. Mir focused his practice on minimally invasive techniques. As Medical Director of DISC Sports & Spine Center, Dr. Mir is at the forefront of the field of minimally invasive spine surgery. The benefits of these techniques include less post-operative pain, quicker recovery reduced blood loss, less soft tissue damage, smaller surgical incisions, less scarring and improved function.

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