Normally, we do not give much thought to our neck until it becomes tight, painful, or difficult to turn. When that happens, we realize that all the muscles, tendons and bones in the neck are there to help us move freely without pain. If you suffer a sudden injury to your neck, the pain and limited mobility require treatment to promote faster healing and avoid surgery if possible.

Common neck injuries

Types and causes of common neck injuries 

When your neck hurts – whether due to poor sleep or a sudden injury – it can make simple tasks challenging. Turning your head while driving, lifting objects or even just playing your favourite sport can become painful and uncomfortable. Some of the most common neck injuries include: 

  • Stiff muscles and tendons– stiffness, often referred to as ‘a crick in the neck’, can be caused by awkward movements or by holding the neck in the same position for an extended period of time. For example, if you sleep in an awkward position overnight.
  • Neck sprain or strain– a sprain can occur when ligaments in the neck are torn. A strain refers to a torn muscle or tendon. This can occur as a result of a sudden injury during physical activity or even in a minor car accident.
  • Pinched nerve– bones, tissues, or tendons may press on surrounding nerves, causing pain. This can happen as a result of a muscle sprain or strain.
  • Herniated disc – a herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc ruptures and the soft, gelatinous interior leaks or bulges out of the disc. Most often this is a result of wear and tear, but herniated discs can also be caused by a sudden injury, such as a fall.
  • Fractured cervical spine– although rare, a fractured cervical spine (or broken neck) is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of a neck injury

Your symptoms will depend on the type and severity of your injury, but most common symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty turning the neck
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms in neck and shoulders
  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Weakness in the legs, arms, hands or fingers

Early, proper rehabilitation and treatment can prevent the need for surgery and relieve pain, recover from injury and prevent future injuries. The therapists at The Back Clinic specialize in treating different types of neck and back injuries.

Treatment for neck injuries 

Your treatment will depend on the cause of your neck injury. Treatment may include: 

  • Physiotherapy– a certified physiotherapist will show you exercises to relieve pain, improve flexibility and strengthen neck muscles.
  • Medicine– over-the-counter and prescription medications can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and help you find comfort.
  • Injections– Corticosteroid injections, medial branch blocks, and other injections can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain caused by various injuries to the neck.
  • Acupuncture– thin needles are inserted into specific points along the spine to trigger the release of certain chemicals in the body that help relieve pain. Acupuncture can help in conjunction with traditional treatments such as pain management or physiotherapy.
  • Massage– medical massage therapy can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and ease certain back discomforts. Your doctor may recommend massage therapy along with other treatments.
  • Anti-inflammatory Diet– a diet that supports your body’s natural ability to fight inflammation, in combination with other treatment plans, can help relieve symptoms.

In most cases, surgical intervention can be avoided. However, if you continue to suffer from pain and limited motion, cervical spine surgery may be recommended. These include:

  • Spine Robotics– robotic spine surgery uses specialized robots designed to perform more precise and less invasive spine procedures. The goal is fewer complications and faster healing.
  • Cervical discectomy and fusion– a damaged cervical disc may be removed and replaced with an artificial disc. Fusion surgery, in which two or more discs are fused together using hardware to stabilize and support the cervical spine (neck), may also be required.
  • Laminectomy– in a laminectomy, part or all of the back of the vertebrae and the thickened tissue around the vertebrae are removed to make more room for the spinal cord. This helps relieve pressure on the affected nerve. 

Preventing a neck injury 

It may be impossible to completely prevent a neck injury, but you can take steps to reduce your risk and protect your spine. These include: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight – controlling your weight will reduce the pressure on your neck and other joints.
  • Exercise regularly – regular exercise helps relieve tension, tightness and stiffness in the neck. It can also relieve pain and increase flexibility. A strong neck can help prevent neck and cervical spine injuries.
  • Strengthen back and core muscles – your back and core muscles help stabilize your body and maintain balance. Recovery can be easier, too.
  • Eat well – a healthy and balanced diet keeps your organs, tissues and bones strong and healthy.
  • Use ergonomic pillows and chairs – these will help you position your spine properly during the activities we normally do 8-16 hours a day.
  • Correct your posture – good posture when standing, sitting, exercising, and working prevents injuries that can result from repetitive movements in an awkward position.
  • Lift with caution – lifting, twisting and turning should be done consciously and with consideration for our posture and physical limitations. If we overdo it, it can lead to injury. 

 

Neck injuries are common and do not necessarily require surgical intervention. In fact, early, proper rehabilitation and treatment can prevent the need for surgery and allow you to relieve your pain, recover from your injury and prevent future injuries. The therapists at The Back Clinic specialize in treating different types of neck and back injuries.

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