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Neck Sprains’: Cervical Strain Simplified by Sports Medicine M.D

October 2, 2012

Who has suffered from a ‘Neck Sprain’? I am sure we all have either suffered, or have met someone who has suffered from one. What is a Neck Sprain?

First of all it is important to mention the neck has such deep structures it is very hard to determine if it is a muscle (strain) or a ligament(sprain) when we suffer from neck pain.

These injuries of the neck are usually distention of soft tissue/ligaments can be caused by:

  • sleeping in an unusual position(as when traveling long distances by car/plane)
  • trauma
  • improper stretching
  • improper mechanism while exercising
  • stress

image taken from: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://orlandosportschiropractic.com/clients/2392/images/strong_neck_muscles.jpg&imgrefurl=http://movies-jarrodsolomonaaron.blogspot.com/2011/03/muscles-of-neck-and-back.html&usg=__Tr-YQ2W95BLJ6r8mGSrDkAhsWoQ=&h=375&w=450&sz=80&hl=en&start=221&zoom=1&tbnid=yeXdOXEugzLnwM:&tbnh=162&tbnw=194&ei=xUivTca2Hc-58gO68qmQDw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcervical%2Bstrain%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26channel%3Ds%26biw%3D1672%26bih%3D850%26tbm%3Disch1%2C4906&chk=sbg&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=421&oei=wkivTcCEBYOa0QHY4_yOCw&page=8&ndsp=33&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:221&tx=127&ty=75&biw=1672&bih=850

Sometimes discomfort or pain may appear spontaneously. On occasions, this discomfort may worsen gradually. The area of discomfort may be located anywhere in the neck, and tends to limit movement of the neck/head. Many people dismiss this as a minor injury. Cervical strains can be serious enough.

Amongst the dangers it poses are:

  • limitation of movement can stop protective reflexes of our neck(such as is turning the head during an accident)
  • prolonged limitation of motion can decondition muscles
  • produces fatigue
  • can mask other potentially catastrophic conditions

As part of the diagnostic evaluation, a thorough evaluation of the neck is warranted. Knowledge of the anatomical structures is imperative (we don’t want to confuse a muscle spasm with a clot located in a jugular vein, for example).

Radiographs are important, and many times they show straightening of the spine. Losing the normal arch of the spine due to spasm, although many times temporary, can pose a threat to athletes, specially those involved in collision and contact sports.

Regardless of which structure was affected, treatment tends to be the same. It is, though, important to ask your Sports Physician for an exam, as amongst conditions to consider with similar symptoms are:

disk herniations

spine infection(meningitis?)

dislocation of spine

rheumatoid arthritis of spine

fractures

I always tell my patients: Just because it gallops towards you don’t go thinking its a horse. Zebras gallop too.

Don’t let anyone ignore a neck pain, dismissing it a just a cervical strain. Talk to your Sports Doctor.

image taken from: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://applyemr.com/images/chiro.bmp&imgrefurl=http://applyemr.com/Chironote.aspx&usg=__wp4OnVJC1mhZXllqV2jo31vw2M8=&h=268&w=250&sz=14&hl=en&start=91&zoom=1&tbnid=H04FpHgGJAFH7M:&tbnh=163&tbnw=152&ei=DUmvTZWeB4-y8QOGluGQDw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcervical%2Bstrain%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26channel%3Ds%26biw%3D1672%26bih%3D850%26tbm%3Disch1%2C1875&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=306&oei=eUivTZHEIIfa0QGuy6W4Cw&page=4&ndsp=33&ved=1t:429,r:14,s:91&tx=88&ty=53&biw=1672&bih=850

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