Neck sprains (whiplash) and strains are common injuries.  Usually associated with car accidents, neck sprains can be induced by any impact which causes rapid movement of the head forward and back.   The action of the head (which generally weighs between 10 and 13 pounds) has the painfully effect of tearing the ligaments in the neck.

Neck strains are slightly different, as these cause damage to the tendons and muscles. Tendons and ligaments have different roles in the structure of the neck, with the tendons connecting muscle to bone and the ligaments connecting the bones to one another.


In the case of whiplash, the pain is enough to tell you that something’s wrong. Symptoms include headaches which start at the base of the skull and progress to the forehead.  Muscle tension and pain are common, as well as an inability to turn the head from side to side, or up and down without pain.

Symptoms may not manifest immediately after the injury, but take hours or days to appear.

Neck strains have very similar symptoms and it’s probable that you’ll be uniquely unconcerned as to whether you have a sprain or a strain, because of the pain and immobility caused by either of these injuries.

Diagnosis and treatment.

A thorough physical examination to determine the range of motion and tenderness will be conducted.  Standard diagnostic imaging (X-Rays, MRIs, CT scans) may also be used to determine the nature of the injury.

Whiplash will usually resolve on its own, with a little help from the patient.  A consultation to determine you have sustained a neck sprain or strain is recommended, as your practitioner will guide you on a program of self-care to alleviate the symptoms.

Self-care may include icing the injury to alleviate the pain and to reduce any swelling which may have resulted.  This should be done every 2-3 hours for 15 minutes at a time, for several days following the injury.

Drug therapy may also be prescribed in the form of anti-inflammatories or painkillers.  If over-the-counter solutions aren’t helpful, your doctor may recommend a prescription alternative.

Bracing of the neck may also be recommended.  Other therapeutic responses include ultrasound and medical massage, to thoroughly eliminate the injury’s physical impacts.

Because everyone heals differently, your neck sprain or strain may resolve in several days or may take several weeks to heal.  Once the pain is gone, a course of rehabilitative care may be undertaken to resolve any underlying issues and to strengthen the neck against further injury.

With injuries of this nature, it’s always best not rush your rehabilitation and give yourself sufficient time to heal.

Spine Care NJ.

The team at Spine Consult NJ is specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of all conditions of the spine.  If you have sustained an injury to the neck, don’t hesitate to contact us to book a consultation.