Search in�� ��for��
Career Center
New Hospital Update
Learn More About MCI
Bill Payment
Upcoming Events
Find a Physician
Press Releases
Maps and Directions
Visiting Hours
Medical Services
Specialty Programs and Services
Volunteer Services
Birthing Center Tours
Family Care of Eastern Jackson County
Jackson County Medical Group
Family & Friends
Virtual Body
Virtual Cheercards
Web Babies
Decision Tools
Self-Assessment Tools
Natural and Alternative Treatments Main Index
Health Sources
Cancer InDepth
Heart Care Center
HealthDay News
Wellness Centers
Aging and Health
Alternative Health
Sports and Fitness
Food and Nutrition
Men's Health
Mental Health
Kids' and Teens' Health
Healthy Pregnancy
Travel and Health
Women's Health
Genus MD
Genus MD
Physician Websites
Legal Disclaimers
Privacy Notice

Send This Page To A Friend
Print This Page

Neck Sprain



A neck sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the neck. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and link bones to each other. They help make joints like the neck stable.


Causes    TOP

Ligaments stretch as joints move. A sprain happens when a force makes them stretch more than they should. This can be from an accident or trauma. Some forces can cause tears.

Cervical Spine (Neck)

Cervical Spine

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may raise your chance of getting a neck sprain are:

  • Being in a car crash
  • A blow to the head
  • Contact sports
  • A hard fall
  • Jobs that put you at risk for severe falls or car crashes

Symptoms    TOP

Neck sprains may cause:

  • Neck pain that gets worse with movement, especially in the back of the neck
  • Shoulder pain and muscle spasms
  • A tingling tingling or weak feeling in the arms
  • Headache, especially in the back of the head
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Irritability
  • Stiffness and difficulty moving the head in one or more direction

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms, health history, and how you hurt your neck. A physical exam will be done. Your neck will be checked to look for any nerve damage.

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

Neck sprains are graded based on the amount of injury:

  • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligaments
  • Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligaments
  • Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligaments

Treatment    TOP

Treatment includes:

Acute Care


Strict rest is rarely needed. The neck can be moved as long as it does not make pain worse.

Ice and Heat

Ice may help reduce swelling and pain in the first few days after the injury.

After a couple of days, heat may help loosen tight or injured muscles. Wait for swelling to go away before you use heat.


Medicine can help to reduce pain and swelling. Here are some options:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as aspirin, ibuprofen
  • Topical pain medicine—creams or patches that are put on the skin
  • Prescription pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxers

Note: Aspirin is not advised for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving it to your child.


Therapy may be needed for severe sprains. Here are some methods:

  • Cervical traction—a special method to stretch the neck and reduce muscle spasm
  • Physical therapy—restores flexibility, range of motion, and strength in your neck

Prevention    TOP

Neck sprain is often the cause of a car crash. To help reduce your chance of a neck sprain:

  • Drive carefully.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear proper equipment and use proper technique when playing sports.

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Canadian Physiotherapy Association

Health Canada


Conlin A, Bhogal S, et al. Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders—part II: Medical and surgical interventions. Pain Research & Management. 2005;10:33-40.

Duane TM, Wilson SP, et al. Canadian cervical spine rule compared with computed tomography: a prospective analysis. J Trauma. 2011;71(2):352-357.

Langevin P, Peloso PM, et al. Botulinum toxin for subacute/chronic neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD008626.

Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

Neck sprain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 2013. Accessed June 4, 2018.

Teasell RW, McClure JA, et al. A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions for whiplash-associated disorder (WAD): part 2 - interventions for acute WAD. Pain Res Manag. 2010;15(5):295-304.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 6/22/2015

Health References
Health Conditions
Therapeutic Centers

Copyright � 1999-2007
ehc.com; All rights reserved.
Terms & Conditions of Use
Privacy Statement
Medical Center of Independence
17203 E. 23rd St.
Independence,� MO� 64057
Telephone: (816) 478-5000