Neck strain, or whiplash, is the common injury to our muscles and tendons that support and move the head and neck. Any impact that causes your head to jerk forward or backward — like what commonly happens in car accidents — causes your neck muscles and tendons to stretch too far and tear. The neck may be capable of a wide range of motion but is vulnerable to injury. People who play contact sports are also usually at risk of neck strain.
Some people are confused about the difference between a strain and a sprain. The latter is an injury to a ligament and not to a muscle or tendon. They are the same in terms of symptoms and pain, so it may be necessary to ask for a specialist for the official diagnosis. Though neck strain can heal on its own within a few days or weeks, the pain can be mild and achy depending on the tear’s size and location. For this, it is important to know the causes and proper treatment for neck strain.
Causes of neck strain
Improper posture and position can cause your neck muscles, tendons, and soft tissues to overstretch when your head is tilted at an angle for too long. Text neck is one of the main causes of muscle strain. It is caused by tilting down of your head facing a phone screen or other electronic device (like a laptop, tablet, computer, etc.) for a long period of time.
Collision or abnormal force applied to the neck
A sudden impact or motion applied to the neck that causes movement beyond the normal range of neck that pulls the neck muscles, tissues and ligaments can cause neck strain.
Doing and performing too many repetitions can cause muscle strain, including the neck muscles.
Lifting and carrying
When we lifting something that requires too much effort or work, the muscles in your neck commonly tense. This action can cause them to become strained.
Performing a new activity
Engaging in a new activity that is somewhat strenuous increases the risk of muscle strain, including in the neck. Athletes are more prone to muscle strain at the beginning of a training session.
Symptoms of neck muscle strain:
- Numbness of affected muscle
- Feel pain while swallowing
- Decrease in hearing
- Headaches and dizziness
- Breathing Difficulty
Initial treatment for neck strain
Ice or heat therapy
This is a common neck pain treatment anybody can do at home. To reduce swelling, it is recommended to apply some ice within the first 48 hours of injury to help reduce swelling. After that, applying heat or ice to the injury are both options. Why is heat an option? It’s because heat can be a big help to regulate blood circulation and bring healing nutrients to damaged tissues. There should be a layer kept between the skin, though, to avoid skin damage caused by hot or cold compress. The compress should be applied for 10 to 20 minutes with rest periods in between.
It is better to rest your neck and refrain from strenuous activities at least for a couple of days. This can give the affected muscle and tendon time to regenerate or start healing. Doing more activities and enduring the pain can only worsen the injury.
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