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Cervical Strain Injuries

Cervical strain injuries commonly occur in athletes when muscles and tendons, strong bands of tissue that connect muscles to the spine, get stretched too far. This injury is familiar to many athletes, who can easily twist or overstretch a neck muscle during exercise or competition.

Cervical Strain Injuries Hero Image 2

A common cause of neck pain is a cervical strain. This injury happens when muscles and tendons, strong bands of tissue that connect muscles to the spine, get stretched too far.  This injury is familiar to many athletes, who can easily twist or overstretch a neck muscle during exercise or competition. Severe strains can result in tearing a muscle or tendon. Sometimes this injury is referred to as a “whiplash” injury. This happens when the head is suddenly forced forward and backwards. With proper treatment, athletes can achieve a full recovery and return to play.

What causes Cervical Strain Injuries?

Neck strain injuries often occur because muscles in the neck are overloaded. This can happen due to overuse, overstretching, or a sudden twist of the muscle, ligament or tendon. Poor posture can contribute to cervical strains as can underlying arthritis.

Cervical strain injuries are most common in these sports:

• Racket sports (tennis, racket ball, squash)
• Football
• Rugby
• Basketball
• Baseball

Symptoms

Cervical strains cause pain in the neck. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the strain. Common symptoms include:

• Pain that gets worse with movement
• Tenderness
• Muscle spasms

When to see a doctor

People who experience neck pain should see their doctor. A medical history and physical examination will be conducted to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will ask about your injury and the sports you play, and examine your neck to look for areas of swelling and tenderness. Your doctor may order imaging tests, such as an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to confirm the diagnosis.

Non-operative treatment

Treatment of cervical strains always involves non-surgical measures to allow injured muscles to heal properly. Conservative treatments include:

• Rest from activities and sports that place strain on the neck
• Ice to reduce swelling
• Heat to loosen up the muscles
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help relieve pain and inflammation
• Muscle relaxant medications to reduce spasm
• Physical therapy (such as stretching exercises and sports massage), especially for more severe strains

You can also try these exercises at home:

Cervical Strain

 

Recovery

After 24-48 hours, and after pain subsides, most athletes can start to get back to physical activity. Your doctor will advise you on a plan to get you back to a full recovery and return to play.

Sources

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