Dealing with a neck sprain

9 January 2018
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9 January 2018, Comments: 0

A neck sprain occurs once the neck ligaments are overly stretched or torn. The injury is typically caused by abrupt neck movements linked with a fall, vehicular accidents or engaging in contact sports.

Most cases are effectively managed with conservative measures and surgery is not typically required.

What are the signs?

If an individual ends up with a neck sprain, the pain that arises is based on the seriousness of the injury. The usual indications include:

  • Neck pain at the rear part that worsens during movement
  • Upper shoulder pain along with muscular spasms
  • Sore throat
  • Headache in the back of the head
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Numbness of the hand and arm


    Apply an ice pack on the neck to lessen the pain and swelling.

  • Reduced range of motion or stiffness of the neck
  • Weakness or tingling sensation inside the arms

Possible complications

If a neck sprain is not correctly treated or left ignored, it can lead to the following:

  • Herniated disc
  • Continuous, chronic pain
  • Lasting disability
  • Entrapment of the cervical nerve root
  • Spinal cord injury

Management of a neck sprain

The treatment for a neck sprain involves conservative and surgical measures. Luckily, most cases do not necessitate surgery.

Conservative management

  • Any aggravating activity must be avoided. The individual is instructed to avoid engaging in physical activities until the pain and other symptoms settle.
  • A soft collar is suggested to provide the head with support and alleviate the pressure
  • Apply an ice pack on the neck to lessen the pain and swelling
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be given to reduce the swelling and pain.
  • Topical therapy might be used in some cases which includes lotions, creams and patches that are applied on the skin.
  • Massage therapy
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Physical therapy exercises

In case surgery is necessary, it is typically performed to deal with complications such as a herniated disc.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a neck sprain is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how it is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Ottawa First Aid.

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