Have you ever fallen asleep the wrong way and woken up with neck pain or even tried lifting something heavy that resulted in a pulled muscle on your neck or back? The unpleasant sensations and symptoms along with neck pain are common, and luckily there are treatments that will even help get rid of the pain all together to prevent any future neck injury.

There are many factors that can influence and even increase your chances of having neck pain. This can range from a recent or previous injury, your anatomy and even your lifestyle. The best option for people is to learn the difference between the pain that is out of your control and the pain you can control. You can do this by consulting with your doctor or physical therapist for treatments that are best for you as well as for tips on how to prevent neck pain.

What Is a Neck Injury?

A cervical spine injury is another term for a neck injury which can vary in the severity of the injury as well as the type. Injuries to your neck can have many causes, but the most common is caused by trauma to the area, a fall, or proceeding an accident. Another factor may also be that degenerative changes are taking place in the spine.

Is a Neck Injury Serious?

Because the anatomical parts on your neck are connected, damage in one part of your neck can often mean there is also damage in another part. This is due to the joints, bones, soft tissue, as well as the nerves in the cervical spine work together to hold up and move your head. That means that a neck injury can vary from having only minor discomfort and pain, to becoming a life-threatening injury.

Effects on Soft Tissue

Most of the time neck injuries usually only affect the soft tissues which include muscles, tendon, fascia, and ligaments whereas every cervical spine injury can affect your muscles including injuries that involve the bones, joints, as well as spinal discs. The condition of your soft tissue can have a big effect on your pain as well as functionality levels.

A common example is when you wake up with neck pain in the morning. This is a common complaint in people that sleep on their stomach rather than on their side. One way to understand this is by imagining if, throughout the course of your typical workday, it was required that you maintain a position in which your neck was twisted for the whole day.

From this point of view, you can understand that sleeping in this position can cause muscle strain and a sore neck the next morning. Waking up in the morning with a throbbing pain in your neck is not fun and can even ruin your whole day. If prevented, it can result in waking up in a better mood and with more energy to go on about your day.

5 Common Neck Injuries and Treatments

Inevitably, the nervous system is going to be affected whether it is a minor neck injury or a more serious and damaging one. They are most common following a recent fall, trauma to the area, or a recent accident. In more severe neck injuries, damage to the nervous system can occur due to nerve involvement. This occurs when multiple or single spinal structures put pressure or meets a spinal root or even the spinal cord.

The following are a list of injuries ranging from minor to severe.

Crick in the Neck

crick in neck

A muscle spasm, arthritis, and a possible disc problem underlay the problem of a crick in the neck. This is not an official medical diagnosis, but it can be caused by something as simple as sleeping wrong. Spending long hours on the computer and sudden movements in the cervical spine are also common causes of a crick in the neck.

  • Treatment 

Often the best remedy is to wait it out, but If you find that the pain is strong, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol. During this time, you must try to reduce your activity and make gentle movements to help ease and minimize the pain. If you find that the crick lasts for more than a week and it disrupts your day-to-day activities, it is recommended you see a doctor for further treatment options.

Muscle Strain

muscle strain in the upper part of spine

An injury to the muscles that are attached to and move the head and upper part of the spine is called a muscle strain. Symptoms include muscle spasms, pain, and reduced flexibility in the neck. Neck strains are graded, meaning the severity of this injury can range from mild to severe.

Grade One Strain

These strains are mild and can be treated by limiting movement and by taking over-the-counter medication to help ease the pain.

  • Treatment

If the pain lasts longer than a week and disrupts your day-to-day activities, it is best to contact your doctor.

Grade Two Strain

Similar to the grade one strain, the grade two strain is only limited to the muscle and is not likely indicative of other structural damage to the neck or cervical spine.

  • Treatment

Over-the-counter medication is recommended for pain, but If pain and discomfort persist and continue to limit your day-to-day activities, it is recommended to see your doctor for further treatment.

Grade Three Strain

Structural damage such as nerve strain is commonly associated with grade three strain. Symptoms include feeling weak and experiencing tingling sensations down one arm.

  • Treatment

It is recommended you make an appointment with your doctor for a higher chance of full recovery.

Grade Four Strain

A grade four neck strain is related to a fracture or vertebral dislocation.

  • Treatment

Immediate medical treatment is required.

Herniated Disc

herniated disc

A herniated disc occurs when the soft substance normally inside of the disc, called the nucleus pulposus, escapes from in-between the disc. It can happen anywhere on the spine where the shock absorbing cushions are located. These are in the cervical spine as well as in the neck area. If this jelly-like substance lands on a nerve root, you will more than likely experience pain or have nerve-related symptoms.

Those can include a tingling sensation down one arm, weakness, numbness, and burning sensations. Annular tears are tears in the tough outer fibers of the disc and may lead to herniation. They may also be caused by repeated or sudden force or stress to the spinal joint.

  • Treatment

Physical therapy, as well as prescribed medication, are common treatments for a herniated disc, however, surgery may also be needed depending on the severity and damage of the disc. We recommend consulting with your doctor or health professional before surgery. Even getting a second or third opinion can help you decide if this is the correct treatment for you.

Neck Fracture

neck fracture

A neck fracture is a break in the cervical bone and may be caused by trauma, a fall, or degenerative changes in the spine. The severity of the break is determined by the angle of force at the time of impact. For instance, a football player who blocks with their head is at high risk of having a cervical fracture. Elderly people with osteoporosis are also at high risk due to their fragile bones.

  • Treatment

There are a few factors that are considered when it comes to treatment for a neck fracture. This can include your age, prior or existing medical conditions, and the extent of damage done to your spine. The best treatment strategy is prevention especially for those who have osteoporosis or osteopenia. For more prevention ideas and strategies, be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist.

Spinal Cord Injury

spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury occurs when a fracture, dislocation, or other neck injury damages the spinal cord. This injury is the most severe because it is the most life-threatening especially if the spinal cord is damaged at the third cervical vertebra or above. If this happens, the person who experienced this injury may need a respirator to stay alive or even immediate death may occur.
Those who live with spinal cord injury must endure a lifelong disability with complete or partial paralysis below the location of the injury.

  • Treatment

The first aid and medical treatment is immediately given after the injury has occurred, are extremely critical to survival as well as the quality of life following a life-threatening neck injury. If you are in the presence of a person who may have experienced a traumatic neck injury, you should always assume they are facing a life-threatening injury and immediately call 911 for further instruction meanwhile help is on the way.

Conclusion

Prevention is key when it comes to neck injuries as they can range from being minor to life-threatening. It can be something as simple as changing your posture, taking precautions when lifting heavy objects, wearing the proper attire when playing sports, or even consulting your doctor for tips on how to prevent a future neck injury. Even the smallest of precautions can be life-saving.

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