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Neck Strain

Neck Strain

If your symptoms do not go away as expected or if new symptoms appear, you should seek medical attention without delay.

Call your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe, unremitting neck pain
  • Neck pain unaffected by changes in position or pain that is not controlled with appropriate medication
  • Severe night neck pain
  • Severe, persistent neck muscle spasms
  • Inability to perform daily work or activities that you could do prior your illness

In addition, symptoms suggesting possible injury to the vital structures contained in the neck should prompt early contact with your doctor. These may include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or loss of function particularly in the upper extremities
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness, headache, or nausea and vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears or decreased hearing

If you are unable to reach your doctor (or do not have one), you should go to a hospital's emergency department without delay for evaluation of any of these types of problems.

If you get sick or reinjured while your neck pain is present, you should contact your doctor.

You must seek immediate medical attention for any symptom suggesting a problem affecting the nervous system, airway, or spinal cord.

Examples of spinal cord injury

  • Bowel or bladder retention or incontinence, that is, inability to control the bowels or bladder
  • Inability to urinate
  • Leg weakness or any new inability to walk
  • Ataxia (loss of balance)
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Any other acute symptoms suggesting a nerve problem

Any other acute symptoms suggesting a nerve problem

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Self-Care at Home

If your pain is not severe and you do not have any new numbness, weakness, or other symptoms of nerve failure, you may safely treat yourself at home.

  • If pain is moderate, bed rest may be necessary. A cervical collar may be beneficial.
  • It is helpful to place a small pillow under the nape of your neck to provide proper neutral positioning
  • Dry or moist heat applied to the area often provides relief from pain caused by muscle spasm. However, it has not been shown to speed the healing process.
  • Pain control with a no steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), is frequently helpful. An upload, such as codeine, may be added if needed but will need to be prescribed by your doctor. Muscle relaxants are often used also, although they are not considered first-line therapy. They are also available by prescription only.
  • Pain control with a no steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), is frequently helpful. An upload, such as codeine, may be added if needed but will need to be prescribed by your doctor. Muscle relaxants are often used also, although they are not considered first-line therapy. They are also available by prescription only.

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Follow-up

In addition to the recommendations for specific measures to be taken during the rehabilitation phase of a neck strain, follow up with your doctor, even if an initial visit or prescription medication  was not necessary. This is particularly important for older people in whom the healing process is often prolonged. They may have other medical conditions that require monitoring.

Typically, for an uncomplicated neck strain, follow-up should be within 2 weeks, or at your discretion, unless symptoms warrant otherwise.

  • For motor vehicle crash victims, earlier follow-up is recommended, within 1 week of the accident.
  • Immediate follow-up should be sought for any unbearable symptoms or any unexpected progression or worsening of your condition. Go to a hospital's emergency department if necessary
  • Follow-up should also occur for medical clearance to return to work, and for all people requiring prescription medication for pain relief.

Most doctors instruct people to contact them right away for any new or worsening symptoms or symptoms that won't go away or, in fact, any concerns that you can't resolve on your own. If you do not have a regular doctor and are unable to find one, you should seek help at the hospital's emergency department for any unexpected or constant symptoms. The primary goal for people and their doctors is always early and complete recovery.

Prevention

The core concept in reducing the incidence of neck strain injury involves trying to reduce the likelihood of being involved in accidents.

The American College of Physicians recommends that all automobile occupants wear seat belts, including the use of child safety seats of appropriate size and construction, for all children weighing less than 40 pounds. In addition, head restraints must be properly adjusted for height so that early contact with the back of the head should occur during a collision, particularly from the rear. Automobile manufacturers have modified vehicles to include devices that add tension to your seat belt during a collision and have devised a multitude of airbag devices to cushion vehicle occupants during crashes. Drive defensively and never while under the influence of mind-altering drugs.

Appropriate safety equipment should also be used by those engaged in dangerous or physical occupations. In addition, homebuilders are attempting to build safer homes, with fewer opportunities for accidental injury.

Outlook

With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, your overall prognosis for complete recovery from neck strain is excellent. The vast majority of people with neck strain recover completely, rapidly, and without incident, with appropriate management. In the absence of complicating factors such as nerve problems, a previously healthy person may reasonably expect complete recovery within a few days to a few weeks. neck strain injury is a major source of lost days of work and can occasionally lead to a chronic pain syndrome.

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