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Neck Sprain

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Neck Sprain


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.

Cervical Spine (Neck).

Cervical Spinehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=798479843DSAE00049g_40018_1.jpgCervical SpineNULLjpgCervical SpineNULL\\hgfiler1\intellect\images\3DSAE00049g_40018_1.jpgNULL88NULL2010-05-203004007984_11651Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of a neck sprain are:

  • Being in a motor vehicle accident
  • A blow to the head, such as from contact sports
  • A hard fall


Problems may be:

  • Neck pain and stiffness that gets worse with movement, especially in the back of the neck
  • Shoulder and upper back pain and muscle spasms
  • Headache, especially in the back of the head
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Tingling or weakness in the hands or arms
  • Problems sleeping


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Questions will also be asked about how the neck was hurt. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the neck. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Pictures may be needed of the neck. This can be done with:


Treatment depends on how severe the sprain is 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.


Medicine may be given, such as:

  • Over the counter or prescription pain relievers
  • Topical pain medicine, such as creams, gels, or patches that are put on the skin
  • Muscle relaxants


Support can include:

  • Resting the area
  • Applying ice pack to ease pain and swelling
  • Therapy to help with strength and range of motion




  • Neck sprains and strains. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/neck-sprain.
  • Posttraumatic headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/posttraumatic-headache.


  • Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT
Last Updated:

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.