Muscle strain or pulled muscle in the neck can be extremely painful. It occurs when one or more fibers in the neck stretch more than it should and tears. Luckily, the muscle strain in neck heals within days or weeks and the pain can be mild or debilitating.
Most times, people tend to interchange neck strain with a neck sprain, which is two different conditions. A sprain occurs when there’s an injury to the ligament, not the muscle or tendon. However, the pain and stiffness are felt the way and usually resolve on their own.
There are over 20 muscles in the neck that are connected. They work together to help the head maintain an upright position and to enable movements of the shoulders, jaw, upper back, neck, and head.
Everything being equal, a muscle comprises of several muscle fibers. These fibers consist of myofibrils that contain contractile proteins, which help the muscle to contract for ease of movement. A problem arises when the muscle stretches more than necessary, which often leads to tears in the muscle, connective tissue, or tendon.
When the muscle strain in the neck becomes extensive, this can lead to inflammation, severe pain, and a longer recovery time.
The Trapezius and Levator scapulae are the two long neck muscles that are at an increased risk of strain.
What are the Causes of Muscle Neck Strain?
No matter how careful you are, you are not immune to a muscle neck strain. Several factors are responsible for this condition and a few of them are listed below;
1. Lifting Heavy Objects
When you carry a heavy object, there’s a possibility the neck will be affected. It’s like mounting pressure on the muscles.
2. Engaging in a New Activity
Let’s assume you’ve not performed a particular body exercise before and suddenly begin, you’ll likely feel aches and pain. But as time goes on, you might feel less or no pain while performing the exercise. That’s how it relates to the neck muscles too.
Putting a muscle through any form of activity, especially a stressful one can cause strain.
3. Bad Posture
There’s a long list of the disadvantages of having bad posture, and one of them is a strain on the neck. When you sit at a spot for a long time without stretching your neck, the muscles can become stiff and painful. Another common example is staring down at the phone for long hours or sleeping on a hard pillow can cause muscle neck strain.
4. Sudden Collision or Fall
Being involved in a collision while driving can tilt the head forward all of a sudden, resulting in muscle neck sprain. Falling from a height suddenly can also affect the neck muscles, thereby causing strain and pain in the neck.
5. Lack of Exercise
Engaging in activities like running, taking a walk or swimming keeps the body active. There might be a strain in the neck muscles if you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle and suddenly wants to change. It is advisable to keep the body active at all times.
Body differs from one individual to another. While some people might feel less pain as soon as the injury occurs, others might not feel pain until after several hours. But after a day or two, the pain can become unbearable and even worsen if no step is taken to reduce it.
Most neck strains heal within a few days while the others take weeks. When you notice your symptoms are getting worse after each day, you should see a medical practitioner.
Muscle neck strain can interfere with activities you perform daily with ease such as dressing up for work, eating, playing games, and more. Without knowing the symptoms, it might be difficult to identify the problem or seek a solution to it.
What are the symptoms of Muscle Strain In Neck
Some of the common symptoms of muscle neck strain include;
1. Sharp pain in the neck
When you suddenly feel a sharp pain in the neck, especially after a neck injury, it is likely a strain.
2. Stiff Neck
Normally, you should be able to move your neck to the left and right with ease. But if your neck suddenly becomes stiff and painful to move, it’s likely a neck strain.
3. Pain in the Neck Region
Muscle strain can start as pain in the neck, then spread to the other parts of the body like the shoulder, upper back, or even the head.
4. Muscle Spasm
Inflammation from the injury can cause painful spasms in the injured muscle and the surrounding muscles.
5. Throbbing Pain in the neck
Pain may become persistent in the neck area which can affect daily activities and sleep. You’ll likely feel the pain in the muscle.
Other common symptoms include;
- 1. Headache and dizziness
- 2. Neck Instability
- 3. Loss of Balance
- 4. Pain in the area surrounding the neck
- 5. Loss of bladder and bowel control
- 6. Inability to use the fingers well
- How Can Muscle Neck Strain be Treated?
Treatment for this condition depends on the diagnosis. This implies you need to meet with your doctor if symptoms are getting worse instead of improving.
The common treatment for neck strain include:
1. Physical therapy
3. Ice and heat therapy
4. Pain medication
7. Corticosteroid Injection
8. Surgery (On rare cases)
9 Muscle Relaxants
10. Antibiotics ( If there’s an infection)
To relieve muscle neck strain at home, follow these procedures;
1. Take over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen.
2. Apply ice continuously for the first few days.
3. Desist from performing any sporting activities as it can make your symptoms worse.
4. Stretch your neck slowly and carefully to prevent stiffness.
5. Ask a family member or friend to massage the neck.
6. Do not use a hard pillow while sleeping
7. Use a neck brace, only according to the doctor’s approval.
8. Maintain a good posture.
Other therapies include massage, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
The treatment listed above are effective and should make you feel better within a few days or weeks. But if symptoms worsen, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your health practitioner.
Part of the Diet for Weight Loss Editorial Team 2021