Neck strain shows with pain and stiffness when attempting to move or rotate the head. It may not always be considered to be a serious injury but the pain that it can cause can be debilitating. In this article, we will review the causes as well as some tips to alleviate the pain and stress of the neck.
The design of the spine and neck is a marvelous thing – it is able to support your head (which weighs about 10 lbs.) with ease, all while providing a full range of motion to turn, twist, bend, and move our head in a circular motion. Although this range of motion is beneficial for everyday movement, it is also what is so vulnerable about the region. It is susceptible to injury. Common movements that can strain the neck are:
Carrying something heavy on one side of the body. This could be a gym bag, purse, or even a handful of groceries.
Sleeping on a pillow that is too firm or raises your head at an awkward angle.
Holding your head and neck in a rigid position for a set period of time. Those working in an office environment that require sitting and looking at a computer for an extended period of the day are the prime example of neck strain caused by this issue.
Trauma such as whiplash or a fall on the head can result in the individual suffering from neck strain.
Most neck strain injuries are minor and typically fade in a few days. It can, however, be difficult to live with in the meantime. Luckily, there are a few steps you can follow to alleviate your symptoms.
1) Apply an ice pack for about 20 minutes at a time within the first 24-hours of sustaining the injury. The cold reduces the inflammation in the area which will allow the strain to begin to heal.
2) Next, after the first 24 hours has passed, apply heat. You can do this by taking a hot shower or bath or with a store-bought or homemade heat wrap. Heat encourages blood (which is full of nutrients the body needs) to circulate heavily in the wounded area; this constant flow of blood helps promote healing of the injury.
3) Take an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) which will reduce the inflammation around the injury and therefore reduce the pain felt. Other over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) do not have an effect on the inflammation and only affect the perception of pain, so it is not the best choice of medication for a strained muscle.
4) Massage the area to aid in blood flow to the strained area.
5) For severe pain and stiffness or if the symptoms last for more than a few days then you should see a professional. A chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical care, is well versed in the muscles and vertebrae in the neck.