neck sprain relief

Neck sprains are usually very painful and require being checked out

The neck is a very important part of our anatomy. The neck begins from the base of the skull through seven vertebrae to the upper back.

The neck has several functions they include:

  • Supporting our head which is an important feature which not only holds our brains but also our ears ,nose, eyes as well as other relevant sensory organs.
  • It is flexible therefore allowing us to view the world around us well through our eyes. Our necks can turn from one side to the other at a degree of 180 as well as up and down.
  • It facilitates flow of blood to the brain. The vertebral foramen found in the neck (which is also known as the cervical spine)  provide a  passage for  vertebral arteries that supply blood to the brain.
  • The neck also houses the spinal cord therefore protecting it. This reduces the likelihood of these important vital networks being damaged. The spinal cord relays messages from the brain to the rest of the body.

These functions are indicative of the importance of the neck and we should therefore take care of it and prevent it from injury.

What is a neck sprain?

A neck sprain occurs after the neck is subjected to a certain amount of sprain. This could be as a result of different events most commonly motor vehicle accidents, a fall or an amusement park ride.

During this accidents, the resulting strong forces impact the neck causing it to quickly extend beyond its limit then snap back forcefully. The immediate response of the muscles is to contract in order to reduce further injury.

Sometimes people confuse a neck sprain with a neck strain. It is important to note that while the neck strain mainly affects the muscles, a neck sprain affects the  ligaments (these  are fibrous connective tissue that hold together bones, cartilages and joints. They act like rubber bands).

Signs and Symptoms of a Neck Sprain

Here are some of the symptoms that you should look out for:

  • Pain that worsens with movement.
  • Delayed onset of the pain; it will usually occur a day or two after injury.
  • Muscle spasms and pain on the upper shoulders.
  • Headache that is concentrated at the back of the head.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Sore throat.
  • Numbness in the arm or hand.
  • Increased irritability, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
  • Neck stiffness and consequent decrease in range of motion.
  • Tingling or weakness in the arms.

Other symptoms include swelling and pain when the injured area is stretched. If you experience pain immediately go to the emergency room.

People who have experienced neck injury should be immobilized and good first aid techniques should be applied. This is because moving this person inappropriately could lead to further injury and even worse- paralysis.

If your neck pain is associated with arm or leg weakness ,difficulty walking or inability to control the bladder or bowels is a sign of spinal cord injury. You should go to the emergency room immediately.

Diagnosis for a Sprained Neck

The physician will do a physical test on you to check the extent of your injuries. He may also ask the details of the accident. He will inspect your posture, the position of your head and your chin, your posture, your ability to move, he will also inspect the blood vessels on your neck and listen with a stethoscope.

He will also check on the range of motion of your neck, the muscle strength in your arms,  your reflexes and whether or not you can detect sensations.

Mist patients who are suspected to be having a sprained neck do not need further detailed tests. However, in the event your physician needs more information, the following tests come in handy:

MRI- this particular test uses a large magnet, radiowaves and a computer to produce clear images of the human body that combines clear images of the human body without the use of X-Rays.

CT scan-this is an X-Ray procedure that combines many X-Ray images to produce cross-sections images.

 Treatment for Neck Sprains

Your doctor will recommend several of the following measures for your neck pain:

1. Exercise  your neck and keep it active

Although the pain may be intense and you may want to rest it all the time, it is advisable to keep your neck active to avoid stiffening up. You can rest the day for a day but after that keep it moving as normally as possible. Note that you will not cause harm to your neck by indulging in normal activities. Gently move your neck in each direction every couple of hours.

2. Heat or ice treatment

Put a hot water bottle on the painful part or heating pads. You can also use ice within the first 48 to 72 hours and then start using heat. Hot showers have also been found to be soothing.Be careful not to fall asleep with a heat pad or ice.

3. Anti-inflammatory painkillers

These include Ibuprofen which can be bought over the counter. Diclofenac and Naproxen need a prescription and are also effective .

There is an exception when it comes to people who suffer from kidney and heart failure or high blood pressure as they may not be able to take anti-inflammatory painkillers.

4. Strong painkillers

These can be used when the pain is too intense and when the anti-inflammatory drugs don’t work effectively. Codeine is an example of a strong painkiller which can be taken with Paracetamol.

5. Muscle relaxants

These can be used when the neck feels tense and the pain becomes worse. Your doctor may prescribe it for a couple of days .An example is diazepam.

6. A firm supporting pillow

Special neck pillows and a firm pillow make bedtimes more comfortable. It is advisable not to sleep on more than one pillow.

7. Massage

Having someone perhaps a partner or a sibling gently massage the affected area can be beneficial and quite soothing.

If the pain does not alleviate within two to three weeks your physician may treat you with local anesthetic injections .If this fails to work and your conditions continue for months, you have to go back to hospital for further examination.

A sprained neck is quite painful and restrictive i.e. decreased range of motion. However, the good news is that it does heal when the necessary treatment is taken. Always wear your safety belt when you are in a motor vehicle, this is a small step but could save your life. Most of the sprained neck result from whiplash accidents like a car been hit from the back and your neck being jolted. If you are wearing your safety belt, the effects will be minimal.

Have a great pain free week and don’t forget to buckle up!

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