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)
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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
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Neck sprain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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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