by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A neck sprain is stretching or tearing of a muscle or ligament in the neck. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and link bones to each other.
A neck sprain happens when a force makes a muscle or ligament stretch more than it should.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how your neck was hurt. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your neck. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Pictures may be needed of the neck. This can be done with:
Treatment depends on the severity of the sprain and the muscle or ligament involved. Options are:
Most neck sprains happen due to accidents. Healthy muscles may help prevent injury. This may be done through exercise.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDS for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(6):CD007402.
Neck sprain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 8, 2020.
Posttraumatic headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/posttraumatic-headache. Accessed October 8, 2020.
Riechers RG 2nd, Walker MF, et al. Post-traumatic headaches. Handb Clin Neurol. 2015;128:567-578.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 5/12/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.