Neck strain describes common muscular overexertion and minor injury to the soft tissues. This occurrence is one of the most common causes of acute episodic neck pain, but luckily is not a serious or lasting consideration for most patients. Strained muscles develop tiny tears in their structure, causing pain, stiffness and a loss of effective range of motion. Strains can also affect ligaments or tendons, as well as muscles, or instead of muscles. The usual location for these tears to occur is where muscles, ligaments or tendons attach to surrounding anatomical structures. In the most severe of strains, the soft tissue can actually detach and may require professional medical intervention.
This essay details the causes of a strained neck muscle, ligament or tendon, as well as provides expert guidance for treating these types of torturous pain syndromes at home.
Neck Strain Overview
The soft tissues of the neck, including muscles, ligaments and tendons, actually consist of groups of linked cells. These cellular chains impart great strength and flexibility to the structure, but also leave room for tears to form when the tissues are stressed. Small tears can occur between chains of cells, as well as actually severing chains of cells. These gaps can be very painful and usually decrease the tissue’s strength and resilience until healed.
Most minor muscular, ligamentous and tendon tears are not significant problems and should resolve without any treatment, in a matter of several days time. More serious tears might require a few weeks to truly feel completely better. In extreme cases, a muscle, ligament or tendon can pull away from its attachment points. This type of neck injury is far more significant and might necessitate professional medical repair and rehabilitation.
Strain can occur to any of the soft tissues in the neck anatomy, potentially causing pain behind the ear, under the ear, at the base of the skull, in the center of the spine, on one or both sides of the spine or at the juncture where the neck meets the shoulders.
What Causes Neck Strain?
A strained neck muscle can occur from known or idiopathic circumstances. Below are listed some of the more typical scenarios that might result in symptomatic neck muscle pain:
Simple overuse can come about from periods of intense or repetitive manual labor. Overuse injuries also involve the build-up of cellular waste chemicals, such as lactic acid. These conditions can be painful for a few days, but will usually resolve completely and without leaving any lasting damage or significant scar tissue formation.
Trauma can tear muscles, ligaments or tendons in minor or major ways. Minor traumas are commonly suffered in sporting injuries, during falls, during acts of violence and during any kind of injurious accident, such as a vehicular impact.
Traumatic strain can be further exacerbated by whiplash conditions that are so typical for car crash victims to experience. Whiplash can strain soft tissues past their comfortable flexibility ranges in both directions, causing dual injury that may take weeks to fully heal.
Surgical interventions can cause soft tissue tears, although these are simply inherent parts of the treatment endeavor in most instances.
The most extreme muscular spasms, such as those enacted by neuromuscular diseases, seizures, some pharmaceutical products and severe ischemia can all cause mild to moderate soft tissue tearing in the neck anatomy.
Neck Strain Treatment Choices
Most cases of a strained neck do not require any professional care in order to resolve. The body is more than capable of healing virtually any injury, if given time and opportunity. However, to assist in managing symptoms, and to increase comfort level during the natural healing process, some home remedies can really help to provide relief:
We do not recommend taking pharmaceutical products, unless they are truly necessary. All these substances contain hazardous ingredients that can cause damage to the internal organs or other bodily systems. However, OTC versions of pain management drugs and anti-inflammatories are acceptable, if not used too often or for too long.
Acupuncture can often relieve pain from serious strains.
Massage can help relieve pain due to strained tissues and is the very best way to assist in metabolizing cellular waste chemicals that are present in overuse conditions.
Ice is great for reducing inflammation, while heat is ideal for providing soothing relief and helping to metabolize waste chemicals. Alternating ice and heat, as recommended, can provide the best of both worlds.
Simple relaxation of mind and body can do wonders for minor injuries and overuse concerns. Time will allow the body to heal naturally and a positive, relaxed emotional state will facilitate the ideal circumstances for the body to balance itself.
Serious strains, or chronic pain problems resulting from strain, should be evaluated by a trained physician. Orthopedists and physical therapists are both perfect candidates for this task. In some scenarios, conservative treatment may be necessary to heal the injury or to provide proper rehabilitation of a resolved injury. In the most extreme instances, surgery may be required to repair a muscle, ligament or tendon that has broken away from its destination attachments.